Climate Change and the Exacerbation of Poverty

Two days prior to the United Nations 2014 Climate Summit on September 21, an estimated 310,000 people gathered in New York City for what has been called the largest climate related demonstration in history. U.N Secretary General Ban Ki-moon marched alongside participants in preparation for his political action forum on September 23, where he will host 120 international leaders to create an action plan to reverse the effects of climate change.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shared his hope that world leaders will recognize the threat of climate change and seek action. On the local level, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, alongside other city officials, unveiled new plans to combat climate change: his administration’s proposed initiative, “Built to Last,” aims to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

McSilverType3While researchers and advocates highlight potential broad reaching consequences, climate change can exacerbate the conditions of poverty, especially in developing countries. Rising sea levels and extreme weather crises have had a disastrous effect on agricultural economies by damaging crops, destroying homes and infrastructure, and limiting employment opportunities. In sub-Saharan Africa, governments have recognized adverse effects of climate change and have implemented funding initiatives to address the problem; however, this funding cuts into education and health budgets. Global climate initiatives have neglected to provide adequate funding for developing countries, necessitating the use of their domestic budget to fund these projects. For example, between 2010 and 2012, only $5.7 billion out of $31.9 billion went to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In light of this fact, it is not only necessary to develop a comprehensive action plan but also to ensure that countries with the greatest need receive adequate funding to implement such a plan.



Direct Service Implications

Combating climate change is imperative to alleviating the effects of poverty and boosting the economy both domestically and internationally. While an immediate solution does not exist, social advocacy is one of the best tools for individuals and organizations to speak out against climate change and contribute to the policy conversations that have the potential to impact the lives of people around the world.


Courtesy of McSilver Institute of Poverty Policy and Research who has kindly given SJS permission to syndicate this piece.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Policy News Briefs are not necessarily the views of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research or NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. If you have comments or suggestions about this service, contact us at


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