5 Ways Global Warming Hurts the Poor

It will hurt our markets more than mass unemployment or high energy prices. It will ruin more lives than terrorist attacks or weapons of mass destruction. Climate change, experts confirmed this week, is the largest threat to our global economy today. And it hurts the poor the most. Here’s how.

1. Social Unrest

Climate change worsened a drought in Syria that displaced two million people over five years. Dry weather drove unsuccessful farmers into cities, food prices skyrocketed and a mismanaged government only made the problem worse. Factors like these compounded, eventually culminating in 2011 with civil war.

“We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” Richard Seager, a climate scientist, told Scientific American. “We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”

He expects the whole Middle East, which is getting increasingly hotter and drier, to follow suit with similar conflicts.

2. Mass Migrations

Syria is hardly the only nation that’s experiencing mass migrations exacerbated by climate change. High temperatures in Pakistan make men in the country 11 times more likely to skip town, the Smithsonian reports, because working in the heat is so agonizing.

Then, as writer Colin Schultz observes, “The failure of the farm and the exodus that follows, the scientists say, sends a rippling shock through the rest of the economy as people stop buying and start leaving.”

In the impoverished West Africa’s Sahel desert, the Independent reports, legions are expected to leave as well—researchers expect 200 million to run out of dependable food sources in the next 30 to 40 years.

3. Widespread Disease

Alongside food shortages—not only with agricultural centers but with coastal areas that may have less fish to eat as the ocean gets more acidic—diseases also spread with climate change. A U.N. report last year asserted that climate change can help diseases, like food-borne illness, extend their range into areas that weren’t before affected. It’s already hurting our world’s poorest, and researchers expect the situation to worsen “mainly in areas that are already food insecure.”

4. Extreme Weather

Scientists have tied the growing frequency of natural disasters like wildfires, hurricanes and floods with climate change. Those at the U.N. predict more injuries and deaths due to heat. Those who live and work exposed to the elements, whether in slums, farms, etc. are most vulnerable.

5. More Poverty

Not only does climate change hurt the poor the most, it also makes more people poor. Drought often leads to increased poverty, according to a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.

As with most global problems, climate change leaves the poor of the world suffering most. The recent COP21 U.N. summit on climate change recognized this, and so do various climate justice activists, including religious groups. It’s time for us all to wake up and take decisive action. Vote for politicians that prioritize the environment, cut your own personal emissions and do whatever else you can to demand change.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Beverly C.
Cathy K3 years ago

Important Article. Thanks for sharing.

Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawn3 years ago

thank you spreading awareness of the highly disadvantaged

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago


Do you have any evidence to support your claims? Would what cause such a mass die off?

Grace Adams
Grace Adams3 years ago

If we continue with business as usual, climate change due to global warming is likely to kill 80% of world population including 50% of population in industrialized nations including USA. If we start now to do better for climate, we might be able to cut that toll roughly in half. I wish we would tax emissions at $5/metric ton of CO2 equivalent in 2016, raise that tax $5 by same amount in 2017 and in 2018. In 2019 we should add a tax of $5/MWh on electricity and $5/Therm on other forms of energy. Then alternate years between increasing the two tax rates until tax collected equals 70% of pretax sales of energy. Only a little revenue can go to pay down national debt--too often austerity backfires and depresses economy. For political feasibility half of revenue from both taxes must go to buying fossil fuel reserves as mineral rights. Other half of emissions tax goes to helping workers displaced by decline of fossil fuel markets do to both tax and replacement of fossil fuel by renewable energy. Some workers will have transferable skills such that federal government can run an interstate temporary workers program busing them to job sites in various states. Most coal mining is done with same earth moving equipment used to make roads and to excavate for foundations of new buildings. So a nicely fitted out long distance bus (like a Greyhound) can accommodate bused workers who used to mine coal at night right next to work site. Other workers will need to be retrained for other work if

Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

The poor are always the vulnerable ones. Thanks for sharing.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

Well yes, they will be the more affected!

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

The poor are always more vulnerable. The changes envisioned to combat global warming will invariably impact the poor much more negatively than the rest of us. The poor simply cannot afford the rising food and energy prices that will accompany these changes in the same way that others can. That was the biggest objection at the Paris conference; the third world opposed those recommendations that would increase food and energy costs.

Patricia Harris
John Taylor3 years ago

Jamie Clemons, but as concerned citizens of this planet, we have what it takes to make things better when nobody else will!!

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons3 years ago

I don't think global warming is going to single out one group. The poor are more vulnerable to change but it is eventually going to get all of us.