According to the World Health Organization, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 extra deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. But climate change does not affect everyone the same. In fact, the poorest people on the planet, who are often the least to blame for climate change, typically bear the worst of the impact.
Wealthier people and countries have more resources to shield themselves from the impacts of climate change. For example, higher incomes allow people to purchase air conditioning as temperatures rise, food as food prices soar, and homes in safer places. Wealthy nations can also compensate citizens when climate change harms livelihoods.
According to new research, people with lower incomes are exposed to heat waves for longer periods of time compared to those with higher incomes due to a combination of factors including location and access to heat adaptations like air conditioning. This inequality is expected to increase as temperatures rise.
The study, which was published in the AGU journal Earth’s Future, found that lower income populations face a 40% higher exposure to heat waves than people with higher incomes. By the end of the century, the poorest 25% of the global population will be exposed to heat waves at a rate equivalent to the rest of the population combined.
On the other hand, the highest-income quarter of the population will experience comparatively little change in exposure to heat waves as their ability to keep up with climate change is generally greater.
The research team hopes its findings will prompt innovations into affordable cooling solutions for the world’s most vulnerable population.
Climate change and poverty are, and will remain, inextricably linked.
Photo, posted October 27, 2019, courtesy of Jack via Flickr.