The number of human beings in the world who will be affected by global warming, even limited to 2°C.
What are we talking about?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines Climate change as the “changes in climate which are attributed directly or indirectly to human activity thus altering the composition of the global atmosphere and which are added to the natural nature of the climate observed during comparable periods“. This global warming, which results in a large-scale disruption, is perceived as fearsome. However, its distant and uncertain term does not encourage action matching the seriousness of the challenge.
It is therefore important to understand the current and expected consequences of these climate disruptions in order to assess the way in which populations are and will be affected.
Studies conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) help to understand the urgency of climate disruptions. Indeed, the IPCC report, to which the AFP got access in June 2021 but that will be published in February 2022, focuses on the key figures of the Paris Agreement, + 1.5°C and + 2°C compared to the pre-industrial period. These increases respectively represent the optimal target of the countries having signed the agreement as well as the ultimate limit.
In its report, the IPCC highlights that global warming, even at these temperatures, would have disastrous consequences. Indeed, a drop in food production could push 80 million people into hunger by 2050. + 2°C would also lead to an increase in global poverty by 2030 with 130 million more people living in extreme poverty ($ 1.90 per day). The report also demonstrates that at + 2°C, the growing number of heat waves would lead to a shortage of water for 400 million people.
These IPCC forecasts are therefore particularly alarming since they are based on the most optimistic scenario, which would still affect 2.5 billion humans.
Beyond these studies focusing mainly on projections, it is important to note that disturbances are already taking place. Many regions and populations are forced to change their habits to cope with devastating storms, heat waves, droughts, melting ice, floods or giant fires. The Arctic Circle illustrates this phenomenon. For instance, the city of Verkhoyansk in Siberia recently experienced a historic record of 38°C, a temperature never observed at this latitude.
These observations highlight another problem: most of these consequences mainly happen in southern countries. They generally affect small island states of low altitude and less “developed” countries, with little or no means to fight or adapt to changes. According to the World Bank, the 143 million climate refugees who will emerge in 2030 will come mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia.
Thus, it is essential to take into account the distribution of the impacts of climate change to recall the presence of human rights and justice issues. Indeed, the deregulation will increase the inequalities between the countries since the nations of the South will be the most affected by global warming, caused in large part by the North (the G20 countries alone are responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions).
This can be illustrated by the current situation in Madagascar where 1.14 million people are suffering from food insecurity, and 14,000 are already living in conditions close to famine. The director of the WFP (World Food Program), David Beasley, himself refers to this environmental injustice by recalling that “it is a region of the world which has not contributed to climate change but which is now paying a heavy price.”
Climate change and human rights, key issue for COP26?
Thus, beyond the consequences on nature, which are the most visible, the ravages of climate change for humanity have become a fundamental question of human rights. Inequalities will be reinforced between countries as well as between different ethnic groups or social classes, gender or generations. Therefore, more than ever, pressure must be maintained on national and international instances, so that the COP26 negotiations can lead to measures that will match the urgency of the situation and push countries around the world to raise their climate ambitions.