Reflections on poverty and climate change

We must see everything, and everyone, as interconnected and intended by God to live in relationship.

Two of the most significant crises facing our world — climate change and deadly poverty — offer an example of such interconnectedness. By understanding how the two crises, and the people they affect, are connected, we can begin to understand how humanity can triumph over both. Extreme poverty — that is, poverty that kills — afflicts more than a billion of God’s people around the world. Nearly 30,000 of these people will die today. That’s 1 every 3 seconds. The factors that propel this kind of deadly poverty include hunger, diseases like AIDS and malaria, conflict, lack of access to education and basic inequality. Climate change threatens to make the picture even more deadly. As temperature changes increase the frequency and intensity of severe-weather events around the world, poor countries — which often lack infrastructural needs like storm walls and water-storage facilities — will divert previous resources away from fighting poverty in order to respond to disaster. Warmer climates will also increase the spread of diseases like malaria and tax the ability of poor countries to respond adequately. Perhaps most severely, changed rain patterns will increase the prevalence of drought in places like Africa, where only 4 percent of cropped land is irrigated, leaving populations without food and hamstrung in their ability to trade internationally to generate income.

Conversely, just as climate change will exacerbate poverty, poverty also is hastening climate change.


The author is Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Read the entire essay here in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.

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