As we have witnessed just recently south of the border, more extreme and less predictable weather is having an impact on people’s lives all over the world. James Kheri, supported by one of our Christian Aid partners, explains:
‘You need to plant, knowing that it will rain in the next two or three days; if it doesn’t you can lose your seed. Before, we used to be able to predict the rains by the time of year, and see the signs. Now we can’t. The temperature would rise and we would know the rains were coming. But now the temperature rises, the winds come, but there is no rain.’
In sub-Saharan Africa, recurrent droughts have caused widespread hunger and wiped out the incomes and livelihoods of millions of farming communities. Rising sea levels due to warmer temperatures and melting ice are causing farmland to be contaminated by sea water in countries like Bangladesh, and in Latin America shrinking glaciers are posing a threat to water supplies and farming across the entire Andean Region.
Today 870 million people will go hungry and climate change is one of the reasons why.
Based on a huge body of scientific research, the vast majority of climate scientists agree that the rise in greenhouse gas emissions from human activity over the past century or so is a key factor behind the increase in global average temperatures and it is this which is causing the more extreme and unpredictable weather that the world is now experiencing. Indeed, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of some 300 scientists from research institutes in 194 countries, recently released their 5th.
Chris Hegarty, Christian Aid Scotland’s senior policy and advocacy adviser said “Rising temperatures will bring enormous economic and human cost. We need to support countries and communities most at risk, to prepare them to cope with disaster, and to lessen the impact of extreme weather events – helping communities to recover and adapt more rapidly when they do occur.”
In the case of James, a UK aid-funded project ECRP (Enhancing Community Resilience Programme), is giving farmers a new way to read the signs: weather forecasts by text message. Because of the project, James Kheri receives weekly text messages with local weather forecasts in his mother tongue which he is able to pass onto more than 500 households in his community. Last year, James had a bumper harvest with forty 50kg bags of maize. His father in law, who has a similar sized field and did not believe the forecast, didn’t plant the maize at the same time, and harvested just 15 bags. The difference is huge. report confirming this.
The implications of melting ice caps and rising sea levels for people and economies around the world is enormous but it is the poorest and most vulnerable people who depend on the land and sea for their living who will be most affected. It is the very people who have contributed least to the carbon emissions that have created the problem, who are the very people who are being affected. This is a justice issue.
As a developed industrialised country, the UK has the potential to lead the way in finding a solution to the climate change problem. Campaigning since 2007, Christian Aid has already seen some success. Today, the UK and Scottish Governments have strong climate change legislation and the Scottish Government has set up a Climate Justice Fund to help poor farmers in other parts of the world adapt.
But we need to do more. Over the coming months Christian Aid is busy developing new responses to the issue. We want our governments to honour existing green commitments and we want them to fight for fair and ambitious climate deals in Europe and globally. We want a low carbon future for all.
Look out for Christian Aid working with Eco-congregations to invite you and church groups to act personally and then to call on governments to secure a safe future, not only for James Kheri, but for everyone.