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Understanding the problem of climate change and poverty

Over the past few decades, through collective ambition and coordinated action, our global community has come closer than ever to ending extreme poverty. But the deepening climate crisis threatens to set back our hard-won progress.

2021 was one of the hottest ever years on record, coming at the end of our warmest decade.1 On our current path, global temperatures are on track to rise as much as 3.2°C by 2100, with disastrous consequences.2

Recent reports estimate that climate change could push an additional 132 million people into poverty by 2030.3

People living in poverty are both more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the least resourced to adapt to it. The poorest 3.5 billion people are responsible for just 10 per cent of carbon emissions but are already facing the worst impacts of climate change. It is one of the great injustices of our time.

At Tearfund, we see the impact of a changing climate on the communities that we work with around the world. We witness the rains becoming less predictable, crops failing, diseases spreading into new areas and the frequency and devastation of hurricanes and floods growing.

Villagers from rural northern India
In rural northern India, the impacts of climate change are making it harder for farmers to grow enough to feed their families and make a living.
Rajasthan, in northern India.
Rajasthan, in northern India.

In rural northern India, the impacts of climate change are making it harder for farmers to grow enough to feed their families and make a living.

In Cambodia, the hot, dry weather can mean low rice yields and dying farm animals. There’s less food to eat and to make ends meet, some family members are forced to migrate to cities to find other work. As a result, families are separated and children are left poorly supervised at home.

In central Nepal, Pokhari village is a hilltop settlement that has experienced a gradual decrease in water availability over the past 30 years as a result of frequent droughts and changing patterns of winter and summer rainfall.

In Australia, we are seeing the effects of climate change in Australia, for example in the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020, and the extreme flooding on the east coast in both 2021 and 2022. The Torres Strait is facing a number of climate change risks, including coastal erosion and sea water inundation. Some islands in the Torres Strait could become uninhabitable within decades if global temperatures keep rising at their current rate.

And in our region, climate change threatens to displace large numbers of Pacific communities from their homes and livelihoods. In some cases, there is a real threat that entire island nations will be lost to the sea.

1. "2021 one of the seven warmest years on record, WMO consolidated data shows",


3. World Bank: Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020: Reversals of Fortune