The climate crisis is already happening in countries such as Afghanistan and Ethiopia that are also experiencing ongoing humanitarian crises. People living in lower-income countries are bearing the brunt of climate change—despite that they are least responsible for rising CO2 emissions.
people worldwide are already on the brink of famine as the climate crisis takes hold.
That number is set to increase with higher temperatures, desertification and extreme weather events.Go inside the IRC's climate crisis response.
All around the world, climate change is fueling conflicts over scarce resources, forcing families from their homes, and increasing human suffering. Its impacts also exacerbate inequality. For example, women’s livelihoods in low-income states overwhelmingly depend on agriculture, which is increasingly threatened by extreme weather patterns. Unless world leaders act now, the situation will only get worse.
“While the existential threat posed by global warming jeopardizes us all, it is spread unevenly,” says David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). “Swathes of the global population are essentially left defenseless against a problem they did not cause.”
These numbers help tell that story:
95% of Afghans are without sufficient food, as an economic and humanitarian crisis worsens nearly two months after the shift to Taliban control. A drought expected to continue into 2022 only exacerbates the situation.
Across Africa’s Lake Chad Basin
1 in 4 people lack enough food because of increasing drought in a region (comprising parts of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan) that is warming at 1.5 times the global rate. This climate crisis is also increasing the threat of violent conflict.
11 million people are already facing crisis levels of hunger as conflict rages in the Tigray region. The country has already endured the devastating 2012 famine in the Horn of Africa (the peninsula that includes Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia) and an unprecedented locust outbreak last year.
Across the Horn of Africa
- 3.5 million people in Somalia are facing hunger due to a lack of harvest, and farmers who depend on livestock are seeing animals dying from thirst.
- 2.1 million people in Kenya—including refugees from neighboring countries—will soon face extreme hunger as poor rainfall results in low crop production.
- In Sudan, hunger needs are up to 60% higher than the last five-year average as inflation and the economic and current political crisis in the capital leaves most households unable to afford as much food as before.
In northern Central America
- 1.4 million + people across the region were internally displaced by climate change and conflict in 2020.
- 339,000 people in Guatemala, 17,000 in El Salvador and 937,000 in Honduras were displaced by natural disasters in 2020 alone.
- 3.4 million + people—including 1.3 million children—remain in urgent need of support after back-to-back hurricanes Eta and Iota hit the region in November 2020.
- Climate change is also one of the root causes driving an unprecedented number of people to make the desperate journey to the southern United States border this year.
- 41 million people are already on the brink of famine, and that number is set to increase with higher temperatures, desertification and extreme weather events.
- 200 million + people are in need of international humanitarian assistance each year, in part because of the impacts of climate change.
- Two-thirds of those living in poverty work in agriculture, their livelihoods particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.
- 200 million people could be displaced inside their own countries by climate change by 2050 if nothing is done, says the World Bank.
- 60% of the 20 countries identified as the most vulnerable to climate change are affected by armed conflict, making it harder for them to mitigate the impacts of a warming planet.
What can be done to help
World leaders must do more to prevent catastrophic levels of emissions and to support the poorest countries to cope with the immediate consequences of climate change.
Sufficient international funding is urgently needed to help countries adapt to a changing climate, for example with climate-resilient crops to support rural livelihoods. Funding is also needed for preparedness and response to famine and food crises, including early warning mechanisms. There’s a compelling case for this investment: One 15-year USAID study in the Horn of Africa region revealed that every $1 spent on resilience programs offset three times as much in aid costs later.
Our mood this week—and always. Wise words by @GretaThunberg.— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) November 2, 2021
As world leaders meet at #COP26, a reminder: the world's most vulnerable people are set to bear the brunt of climate change.
At the IRC, we'll never, ever stop fighting for them. RT if you stand with us. pic.twitter.com/3dissDx9yt
The recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, included welcome cooperation between two of the largest emitters, the United States and China, commitments to reduce methane emissions, and pledges from U.S. president Joe Biden and the European Union for financial support to help countries that are facing climate change’s worst impacts.
However, the conference as a whole failed to galvanize the meaningful action necessary to support the world’s most vulnerable people. Adaptation funding for the world’s least-developed countries fell short to the tune of billions of dollars. Plans to cut emissions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees were similarly insufficient.
“COP26 was billed as a critical moment for the international community to come together and make much-needed progress in tackling the climate crisis before it is too late,” says David Miliband. “But for IRC’s clients around the world already facing emergency climate conditions, time has already run out.
“The great injustice is that these failures will be felt most deeply in the countries and populations already mired in humanitarian catastrophe, and who contributed the least.”
The IRC's climate crisis response
The IRC is at the forefront of these necessary efforts in over 20 countries. For example, in Afghanistan, we introduced community-led programs to help farmers adapt their crops for a changing climate and sustain their livelihoods. In northeast Nigeria, we partnered with Google to develop a climate risk data platform that triggers cash payments to the most vulnerable when crisis conditions are indicated. In the Central African Republic, we are working with farmers to plant thousands of trees and diversify their crops, reversing land degradation. This climate-smart approach has helped impoverished farmers in some locations to increase their income by as much as 1000%.