A report out by Oxfam this week highlights why it is so important to have a strategy for adaptation to climate change that takes inequality into account and seeks to protect the most vulnerable.
The most deprived English neighbourhoods have been 3.5 times more vulnerable to flooding than the most well-off over the past quarter of a century, Oxfam revealed this week as it calls on governments to take stronger action to protect poor people from climate change.
The research commissioned by Oxfam comes after the UK’s wettest winter since records began more than 200 years ago, which saw more than 5,000 homes and thousands of hectares of farmland across England and Wales under water.
While anecdotal media stories focus on the homes hit by the latest winter floods in affluent areas areas, the analysis indicates that this was in contrast to the real picture. It shows that almost one in five of the poorest third of neighbourhoods in England were hit by floods between 1990 and 2013. This compares to just one in 18 of the top 10 per cent.
The international agency is warning that as climate change is likely to increase the risks of flooding in the UK, the Government must act to protect vulnerable people at home as well as overseas from increasingly extreme weather and cut emissions to slow the pace of climate change.
The report comes as the IPCC meets in Japan to discuss the increased risks people will face around the globe as a result of climate change. Unless urgent action is taken to protect our food supply, climate change is likely to put back the fight against hunger by decades, according to Oxfam.
Sally Copley, Oxfam’s head of UK policy, programmes and campaigns, said: “This winter’s floods dramatically demonstrated that people in the UK will not be immune from the effects of climate change. Around the world, climate change is hitting the poorest hardest and we must make sure this doesn’t happen overseas or on our doorstep.
“Not only are poor people hurt most by extreme weather events, they are also most vulnerable to food shortages and price increases. In a world where one in eight people already go hungry we cannot afford to put off action any longer.”
Earlier this month the Centre for Alternative Technology, Mid Wales, launched a masters degree in Sustainability and Adaptation. The new MSc programme is the first in the UK to put adaptation to climate change on an equal footing with prevention. The course teaches a process called transformation planning, which enabled communities and organisations to integrate sustainability and adaptation considerations to transform the way they work. This kind of thinking is becoming increasingly urgent as the effects of climate change begin to be felt around the world.
Already this year, the worst drought in a decade has ruined crops in Brazil‘s south-eastern breadbasket, including the valuable coffee harvest. In California, the worst drought in over 100 years is decimating crops across the state, which produces almost half of all the vegetables, fruits and nuts grown in the US.
Without urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts will become more serious. It is estimated there could be 25 million more malnourished children under the age of five in 2050 compared to a world without climate change – that’s the equivalent of all under-fives in the US and Canada combined.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation, due to be published on 31 March, is expected to warn that climate change will lead to declines in global agricultural yields of up to 2 per cent each decade at the same time as demand for food increases by 14 per cent per decade. It is also expected to warn of higher and more volatile food prices. Oxfam estimates world cereal prices could double by 2030, with half of this rise driven by climate change.