Listen to the current administration and you’d be forgiven for thinking the climate crisis was some far-off problem and we could afford to just keep debating an issue science settled long ago.
Plenty of people around the world know different. For them, the crisis isn’t an abstract idea but the sight of their farm swallowed by rising seas or the sound of a child fighting for breath as asthma attacks yet again.
So with the People’s Climate March coming up on April 29, we want to remind DC politicians that the crisis has a face. Here’s who it’s hurting right now – and why we can’t afford to wait.
Want to know what the climate crisis feels like? Ask women around the world, especially those in developing countries. Women are often the ones collecting water, food, and firewood for their families. Which means impacts like increasing water scarcity, soil degradation, and extreme weather have real everyday consequences, forcing them to walk further for water and challenging their ability to reliably grow crops and provide food for their families.
Mothers are especially susceptible to the less visible impacts of the crisis. Here in the US and around the world, rates of child asthma and other respiratory illnesses are rising, due at least in part to climate changes and air pollution increases. When children get sick, mothers are more likely to be the ones who stay home, affecting their ability to earn money and sometimes even careers. These are real costs we can't take lightly.
Perhaps no group feels the health impact of the crisis like children. The World Health Organization says that 1.7 million children under the age of five die from illnesses linked to the environment each year. Children breathe at twice the rate of adults, leading to higher exposure to air pollution which can lead to or exacerbate illnesses like asthma, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Children are also more susceptible to diseases like malaria and dengue, diseases exacerbated by the flooding and poor water quality that so often comes in the wake of extreme weather events.
Most troubling, though, is the fact that the biggest impacts children could suffer might be the ones that we have yet to see. We know they're coming as disease-carrying pests like mosquitos are able to spread to more and more areas as the world gets warmer, to name just one factor. In many cases, we just don't know how yet.
This isn't being alarmist. This is being realistic and ready.
Low-income communities are also high on the list of those suffering the results of a fossil fuel economy. Whether it’s because of their frequent proximity to things like coal-fired power plants that pollute the air, or because recovering from weather disasters like Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is even harder when you were already struggling just to get by, lower-income communities are so often those hit the hardest.
It's not just pollution or devastating events either. The changing climate is projected to shrink clean water supplies, create greater food insecurity, and reduce arable land for farms – all things that low-income communities struggle with already. At a time when the world has made tremendous strides forward in both raising life expectancy and reducing hunger around the planet, we can't let the climate crisis now halt progress (or turn it backward).
Fossil fuel development and the climate crisis have threatened indigenous peoples and their lands for decades. Not only are indigenous communities fighting to protect their lands from oil companies and fracking operations in many places, but rising global temperatures, changes in animal distributions, and other impacts associated with a changing climate now threaten even their access to food.
One example comes from many of the native communities in the Arctic living with declining sea ice and erosion that's claimed homes and roads and made even the simplest tasks like traveling and hunting dangerous. They’re not alone. In the US, many of the 566 federally recognized tribes and other indigenous groups are expected to be negatively affected by impacts ranging from longer droughts to disappearing fish populations, not to mention the real economic and cultural challenges that come with them.
Immigrants & Refugees
Around the globe, more and more refugees and immigrants are fleeing impacts and conflicts connected to the climate crisis. No surprise either: with food and water supplies becoming stressed in many areas at the same time extreme weather events are on the rise, families are moving in search of a safe place to call home and a better life to live there.
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and Norwegian Refugee Council, an average of 22.5 million people were displaced by climate- or weather-related disasters between 2008 and 2015 alone. That’s equivalent to 62,000 people every day.
And these displacements aren’t just happening abroad. In 2016, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a resettlement grant to Isle de Jean Charles, LA, to help American climate refugees. It was the first allocation of federal tax dollars to be used specifically to resettle a community directly impacted by the climate crisis.
What You Can Do
Scientists are clear that the burning of fossil fuels is driving this crisis. But you don't have to be a scientist to know what's on the horizon if politicians keep denying reality and refusing to act.
That’s why, on April 29, we’re marching for climate justice at the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC, and at events around the world. Join us in making our demands clear: we need climate action now.
The administration cannot continue to ignore the facts or faces of the climate crisis. Because if you want to know who the crisis is already affecting, whether they know it or not, just look in the mirror. Look at everyone around you. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent or somewhere in-between, we can all agree that we want a safe and sustainable future for the people we love. Join us at the People's Climate March and together we'll make it a reality.