Poverty and Climate Change - How You Can Help


by Dr. Helene Gayle, CARE president and CEO

Climate change has the potential to wipe out the last 25 years of development gains in some parts of the world. As the number of natural disasters has doubled within the last 20 years, the world's poorest people are already experiencing the effects of climate change. More than 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day, and 70 percent of these people are girls and women.

Climate change acts as a multiplier of existing threats to food security, education, health, natural resources and the day-to-day struggle for survival. Greenhouse gas emissions create more extreme weather patterns, shift seasons and change the amount of rainfall and average temperatures, causing crops to fail and water supplies to dry up or run over.

CARE has worked on climate change for decades and is helping lead the charge with one of the largest adaptation programs in the world.
We have a three part approach:

1. Reduce poverty and help communities adapt

Our adaptation programs help communities withstand drought and floods through simple, cost-effective activities like harvesting rainwater, planting dense mangroves to protect crops from storm waves and using more resistant seeds in their fields. For example, seasonal floods are becoming worse in Bangladesh. CARE helps the women most affected by climate change adapt – sometimes making a change as basic as raising ducks instead of chickens, so their food supply can swim instead of sink the next time there's a flood.

Early warning systems and community-based disaster response plans are also critical adaptation strategies. For every dollar we invest in disaster risk reduction and preparedness roughly seven dollars are saved in disaster response.

2. Protect the environment, conserve and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Plowing fields and "slash and burn" agriculture releases carbon in to the atmosphere. Pesticide and fertilizer use releases nitrous oxide – 200 to 300 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide. CARE promotes climate-friendly agriculture – minimum tillage, building barriers to prevent hillside erosion and planting nitrogen-rich trees on farming plots – to help conserve land and reduce greenhouse emissions.

Deforestation is responsible for 20-30 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Reforestation preserves existing biodiversity, takes away carbon from the atmosphere and, after 30 years, builds a natural repository for greenhouse gases. CARE and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) alliance currently has pilot projects in Mozambique and Tanzania to help protect the coastal marine and forest area's unique biodiversity while developing more diverse, sustainable and profitable agriculture and fisheries for communities dependent on natural resources. Our Mi Bosque project in Guatemala helps communities to grow forests and manage natural resources. Within the last two years alone, Mi Bosque worked with more than 2,000 community members to reforest 239,833 hectares across 132 communities. The average plot of land in the project area has experienced a 150 percent increase in productivity.

3. Seek a global solution through policy change

Policy choices will determine whether we can make poverty history despite climate change, or if climate change will make poverty even more pervasive than it is today. CARE is engaged with over a dozen global climate change alliances, including the 500 NGO-member strong Climate Action Network. Together with our partners, we are working to mobilize public and the U.S. government support to:

  • Reduce emissions to keep global temperatures as far below a 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit increase as possible (right now, the global average temperature has risen almost 0.8 degrees Celsuis or 1.44 degrees Fahrenheit); and
  • Ensure adaptation funding reaches and responds to the priorities of women and highly vulnerable populations.

Unless action is taken now to help the most vulnerable people adapt to climate change impacts, it will not be possible to ensure the food security of a growing (and migrating) world population.

We must – and can – do more.

Here's what you can do to help:

  • Donate to help poor communities get the information and tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty and adapt to our changing climate;
  • Learn more about the CARE/WWF Alliance;
  • Join CARE at our National Conference in Washington, D.C., on May 11-12 to advocate for pro-poor climate change policies.

Thank you!