For most of us in North America, with the exception of occasionally sending our kids to school without warm enough clothes for the day, unseasonable weather doesn't typically have a big impact on our lives. For international relief and development staff working with communities on the front lines of climate change, the compounding effects of a slight increase in sea level or temperature can mean the difference between success and famine. In my work on climate change advocacy with World Renew, field staff constantly ask me how people are responding – because they know that the U.S.’s view of climate change will have direct impacts on the communities where they work.
They know that the U.S.’s view of climate change will have direct impacts on the communities where they work.
Malicio Cantoral Gonzalez has a farm on a steep slope of land near Nueva Frontera in Honduras. Food Resource Bank, a World Renew partner, teamed up with Malicio to improve the output of his farm. He says that in past years his parcel looked like the garden of Eden but more recently all of his crops have been heavily damaged by more erratic weather patterns. Coffee is especially at risk, and he and other Latin American growers are facing detrimental impacts. Growing coffee is only feasible in geographic regions that are warm but not too warm, and moist but not too moist. Too much heat or moisture makes the coffee susceptible to pests and disease. Recently more permanent temperature changes are contributing to a coffee rust fungus that is at epidemic levels throughout Latin America.
World Renew and other community development agencies throughout Latin America are working with farmers on projects to accomplish goals like community resilience and fair coffee prices but the space where the farmers can actually grow the coffee is rapidly disappearing because of climate change.
The space where the farmers can actually grow the coffee is rapidly disappearing because of climate change.
Bangladesh is another nation on the front lines, because seawater is infringing on the land where Bangladeshis would usually grow rice. Scientists are focusing their time and energy on creating new varieties of rice that can survive the salt from the seawater. World Renew is equipping farmers with techniques to plant gardens on huge beds of mulch that will float so families can keep gardening even if their land becomes flooded. The level of innovation going into these projects forces us to pay attention to how acutely other countries are feeling the impacts of climate change.
Their reality is that while they battle their way out of poverty, climate change is literally flooding away their progress and adding new problems. It’s like they are being asked to make bricks without straw. Or in one of these cases they are being asked to build rafts out of straw before they even start planting their gardens.
Their reality is that while they battle their way out of poverty, climate change is literally flooding away their progress and adding new problems.
Envisioning an end to poverty and hunger is part of the hope we press to as people who live under the reign of God. We aren’t satisfied with families having to spend a lifetime living on handouts. We don’t stop at “giving a fish.” We care about teaching to fish, the conditions of the pond, and lifelong flourishing. When governments ignore the reality of climate change the work towards accomplishing those goals is undermined. Collaborators on the Sustainable Development Goals, part of an international effort to end extreme poverty write:
“Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow. Emissions anywhere affect people everywhere. It is an issue that requires solutions that need to be coordinated at the international level and it requires international cooperation to help developing countries move toward a low-carbon economy. ”
Emissions anywhere affect people everywhere.
Our U.S. federal budget reflects our values as a country and because we value the lives of all fellow image bearers, we can’t be satisfied with allowing climate change to persist. We need to continue to fund efforts to stop it if we ever want to be successful at ending hunger.
Here are a few of the ways we could fund our U.S. government to do its part and stand with other countries who are being impacted by climate change:
- Keep our commitment to the Green Climate Fund. Scalable sustainable solutions for clean energy are becoming more available and this fund empowers poorer regions to take advantage of those technologies rather than being left behind. The Green Climate Fund also coordinates and gives grants to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.
- Continue the ENERGY STAR program. This program has already helped families and businesses to save over $400 billion dollars in utility costs, and it helps us as a country to reduce emissions.
- Strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency. Their programs and initiatives are critical for lowering our environmental impact as a nation. The U.S. is one of the largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gasses and the EPA can hold us accountable to making reductions.
So, what can I do?
Send an email, call, or tweet your representatives in Washington asking them to support a faithful budget that does not ignore the reality of climate change.
Watch how farmers in Kenya are coping with climate change and read more stories from the field.