Sen. Ed Markey (MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) are right to bring climate change to the forefront, something President Trump did not even mention in his State of the Union speech. Markey and Ocasio-Cortez just rolled out the Green New Deal resolution to encourage government action on climate change.
The rising temperatures and extreme weather are escalating the world hunger crisis. If we don’t act now, it will plant the seeds for famine and conflict for years to come. Democrats and Republicans need to come together to fight climate change and hunger.
The Green New Deal resolution echoes the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, warning “a changing climate is causing sea levels to rise and an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events that threaten human life, healthy communities, and critical infrastructure.”
We clearly need to reduce greenhouse emissions to reverse the trend of global warming and the resulting weather hazards like drought and flooding.
We must also be helping those who are suffering the most in this rough climate, the poor and hungry.
As Mercy Corps notes, “Even if all greenhouse emissions stopped today, the earth will still warm by a further 0.5 degrees Celsius in the next 20 years. That locks us into an increasing number of extreme events—heat waves, floods, droughts, hurricanes—that will have a disproportionate effect on the world’s most vulnerable people.”
When the weather becomes extreme it takes a heavy toll on agriculture. Imagine a farmer who is trying to plant crops to feed his family and make a living. If drought strikes and the farmer is unable to grow the food, it sets off a disastrous chain of events.
The farmer will have to sell their assets just to survive. But this also means no future planting. The farmer will have to withdraw his children from school to search for food. The family may be forced to flee and become refugees. With the lack of food comes malnutrition and poor health. No community or nation can survive under these conditions.
The impact of climate change and hunger can tip a nation over the edge into chaos. Drought played a role in the onset of Syria’s civil war.
The Sahel region of Africa is one of the hardest hit areas from climate change. As President Obama said in 2015, “climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict…severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram.“
The International Committee of the Red Cross says “The effects of climate change are exacerbating conflict between communities in both Mali and Niger, leading to a deepening of poverty, a weakening of public services and a disruption to traditional means of survival.”
Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which has relief operations throughout the Sahel, says they see the impact of climate change wherever they work.
CRS and other relief agencies help the farmers prepare for drought and other disasters. With enough assistance a farmer can at least reduce potential losses and the resulting damage. If they can diversify crops and sources of income too they can make it through a difficult period.
CRS also provides a valuable safety net for families in Mali through school meals. These are funded by the U.S. McGovern-Dole food for education program. This program helps children keep attending school by providing food. When a family is experiencing hunger from a drought, it’s a huge relief if they know their children are getting meals at school. We need to increase funds for these crucial aid programs.
As the UN World Food Program (WFP) warns “With the vast majority of the world’s hungry exposed to climate shocks, eradicating hunger requires bold efforts to improve people’s ability to prepare, respond and recover. Failing this, it has been estimated that the risk of hunger and malnutrition could increase by up to 20 percent by 2050.”
The Green New Deal will hopefully be the catalyst for bold action. We must fight hunger along with it to rescue the poor from the devastation of climate change.