As featured in Edition 39, available here.
BY BEN MORLEY (2nd year - Politics and International Studies - Bedfordshire, UK)
In the West today, we are all too oblivious of the real-world realities of climate change that are happening right now. Our understanding has increased in recent years, as our attention has shifted to the crisis, but, in part thanks to lack of media coverage, we do not fully grasp, as we must, what climatic change is doing to parts of the world not that far away. Despite contributing only a tiny fraction to the problem, the region of the world receiving the hugely disproportionate brunt of this crisis is the Global South. Developed states, superpowers, and regional heavyweights have to wake up to this now and make change occur.
In recent months, a famine has been occurring on the African island of Madagascar, one that scientists and the UN have dubbed the first ever to be climate-change-induced. It follows over three years of drought that has seen farmland become fruitless and food run dry. Typically, Madagascar rather stably grows rice, sugarcane, and sweet potatoes, among other foods. But failed harvest after failed harvest have led to low yields and drained the food supply. Drought is not rare to Madagascar, but the intensity of this one is thought to have been caused by increased emissions and global temperatures. The result is nothing but dire. The UN has warned that up to one million people are at risk, and the World Food Programme is trying to supply 700,000 people with emergency food.
The stories of those struggling captured by journalists visiting the country are nothing but desperate and heart-breaking. Sky News met village elders begging for help while their babies were slowly dying and toddlers were forced to eat cactus leaves. ITV News have reported seeing crop failures all around, and vast numbers of children with extremely thin arms and bloated stomachs. Aid groups have struggled to get to villages thanks to the country’s dire transport infrastructure – in one mountainous village, over 50 people died before aid workers arrived. One mother told BBC News that she and her children had only been eating locusts to survive for eight full months.
Rather frankly, this is the result of unchecked emissions into the atmosphere and unregulated profiteering at the expense of the environment, and this is only the start. Famine in any part of the world in the 21st century should be out of the question; it should be a ridiculous idea but yet somehow it exists.
Often, conservative climate action, or little to none, has been adopted by states because of a fear of deficits or budgets and loss of economic growth. It is too much of a political hit to take. In comparison to the cost of the climate crisis being undertaken by Madagascans right now, these concerns seem like petty excuses. What we have known for a long time, and know better now than ever before, is that the cost of inaction on the climate crisis is exponentially larger than the physical cost of action.
This famine began several months before the start of COP26 – built up to be our last great chance to fix the problems we have created on our planet. It should have inspired the world to redouble its efforts, but COP26 largely failed. The larger states, including Saudi Arabia, India, and Russia, announced net-zero targets that scientists say are far too conservative. Efforts to agree to the phasing out of coal also failed at the eleventh hour. While developed states, including the US, UK, and Canada, announced rises in their climate funding for developing states, there are still doubts that the $100bn a year figure agreed to be given to developing nations by developed states by 2020 will even be delivered by 2025. With COP26 been and gone, and the world’s attention once again drifted away from the climate crisis, so much more is still needed to help save those like in Madagascar in the future.
There is no other option or path to take. We all have to become much more aware of climate disasters happening in other states across the world. Nations need to rectify their efforts on climate and swap their rhetoric for bold, assertive, and impressive action. Future generations will look back at episodes like the Madagascar famine as warning shots, as needed reminders, and they will judge if the privileged few in the world, from developed state citizens to world leaders, stood up and fought for the change that was so obviously needed.
Image: Unsplash (Dan Gold)