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Poverty, not Global Warming, is the Problem to Solve

February 10, 2007

Global warming is a huge problem – but it’s pretty much too late to do much – let’s focus on poverty relief instead.

Much has been made of the recent report released by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report is pretty depressing. Here’s a summary from Wikipedia

  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal
  • Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations
  • Hotter temperatures and rises in sea level “would continue for centuries” no matter how much humans control their pollution.[9]
  • The probability that this is caused by natural climatic processes is less than 5%
  • It is more than 90% certain that there will be frequent warm spells, heat waves and heavy rainfall

This is the result of seven years of work of over 2,500 climate scientists from all around the world. The report spells out some serious consequences for our future. The key to note here is that these temperature rises will “continue for centuries”. This means that even if we stopped emitting any sort of greenhouse gases, or even stopped increasing emissions, we will still inevitably suffer the consequences of global warming.

The problem is, by we, I really mean the poorest people. Americans and Western Europe will not suffer much – more heat spells, and some rise in sea level will be annoying sure. And yes, there will be deaths. But the majority of the damage from climate change will be wrought upon the people who have contributed the least to it. The one billion people who live on a dollar a day.

Since we have seen that climate change is inevitable no matter what we do, I think the most important thing to do now is to alleviate poverty as much as possible, to give these people a chance to prepare themselves for the onslaught of droughts, heat waves and other damaging climate events.

I plan to become a social entrepreneur and specifically work on issues of poverty through sustainable methods like micro-finance. We already blew it on global warming, let’s not blow it on poverty. 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2007 7:28 am

    Did you see Bjorn Lomborg’s TED talk? Our priorities shouldn’t be based on which problem is most severe, but on how much good for how little cost we can get by fighting each one. We can be most effective in fighting AIDS and malaria, so we should give those things the most attention. As you might expect, climate change is at the bottom of the list.

  2. February 11, 2007 8:43 am

    Hi Jason:

    I still believe it’s not a question of either/or. It’s all interdependent, and that’s why I prefer to use the term ‘sustainability’, which covers it all for me–sustainability of species, of social opportunity, and sustainability of the planet itself.

    A good site you might find interesting which tries to pull it together is WorldChanging…and here’s a link to a piece on global poverty:


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