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How extreme weather events affect different social groups in differentes ways

Leura Dalla Riva


Extreme weather events have become increasingly frequent, as demonstrated by recent scientific studies and as seen daily in the news. The tragedy in Rio Grande do Sul is the latest and most evident example in the current Brazilian context.


Despite the widespread discourse on the "common future" of all humanity when it comes to sustainable development, the reality is that not everyone contributes equally to overcoming planetary limits. Ironically, those who pollute the least are the most affected by the devastating effects of climate change.


As established in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the responsibility for climate change should be common (shared) but differentiated, given the discrepancies between developed and developing countries. The equalization of responsibility should occur not only because of the different historical contributions of these countries to greenhouse gas emissions but also because, due to their condition of underdevelopment, they have different resources and technologies to deal with the climatic phenomena that affect them. Recent studies show that the impacts affect vulnerable groups (such as women and children) much more severely in developing countries, a situation that worsens when vulnerabilities intersect, as in the case of indigenous or quilombola communities.


It is worth mentioning that these groups are not only the most affected by extreme weather events but also by adverse socio-environmental situations in general. In this regard, Larissa Mies Bombardi, in her research on "chemical colonialism," demonstrates that pesticides, for example, affect women, children, indigenous people, and peasants living near commodity cultivation zones such as soy, as they are more directly exposed to contamination by air and water.


The economic losses and damages (such as the destruction of homes, damage to public infrastructure, etc.) and non-economic losses (loss of human and non-human lives, damage to ecosystems, etc.) resulting from extreme weather events can be more easily mitigated in developed countries with significant financial resources and advanced technology. These also affect the population of these countries less severely. In developing countries, on the other hand, low-income people have their socio-economic vulnerability deepened when, as a result of extreme weather events, they lose everything they have. In Brazil, for example, studies show that one effect of climate change has been the exponential increase in dengue cases, a phenomenon that has already become an epidemic and particularly affects the poorest populations. Therefore, climate change can directly affect the right to life, health, and freedom—in short, human dignity, especially for the most disadvantaged communities.


As mentioned earlier, this reality is very evident in the recent events in RS. This is why it is not enough to discuss the climate crisis without addressing aspects related to socio-environmental justice and climate justice. The climate crisis is a global problem, it is caused by a mode of production based on the infinite extraction of resources to feed the capital production treadmill. Among the classes that compose this model, the richest 10% and the core ("developed") countries are the main historical contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and the dissemination of an unsustainable relationship model between humans and Nature. The solutions to address these changes need to be thought out globally and locally, but also from a critical perspective.


References


[1] SAMBORSKA, Veronika. How much have temperatures risen in countries across the world?. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/temperature-anomaly. 18 Mar. 2024.


[2] https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5987our-common-future.pdf


[3] KHALFAN, Ashfaq et al. Climate Equality: A planet for the 99%. OXFAM International, 2023. Available at: https://policy-practice.oxfam.org/resources/climate-equality-a-planet-for-the-99-621551/. Accessed: 18 Mar. 2024.


[4] UNITED NATIONS. Paris Agreement. 2015. Available at: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement. Accessed: 20 mar. 2024.


[5] OBSERVATÓRIO DO CLIMA. Why gender and climate change? 2024. Available at: https://generoeclima.oc.eco.br/infographic-why-gender-and-climate-change/. Accessed: 18 Mar. 2024.


[6] BOMBARDI, Larissa Mies. Agrotóxicos e colonialismo químico. Editora Elefante, 2023.


[7] KHALFAN, Ashfaq et al. Cit.


[8] BARCELLOS, C. et al. Climate change, thermal anomalies, and the recent progression of dengue in Brazil. Sci Rep 14, 5948 (2024). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-56044-y. Accessed: 18 Mar. 2024.


[9] cfr. WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM. The Global Risks Report 2024. 19th Edition. Jan. 2024. Available at: https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_Global_Risks_Report_2024.pdf. Accessed: 11 mar. 2024



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