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Climate Safety Nets for All

Summary:
The droughts, floods, and severe weather that come with climate change will leave the world's poorest and most vulnerable even worse off, overwhelming today's system of humanitarian aid. Only by strengthening poor people's climate resilience can they meet the coming challenges. LONDON – As preparations for this year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow intensify, attention is focused on efforts to prevent a future catastrophe. But real-time climate catastrophes already are playing out in the lives of millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. What will COP26 offer them? The End of the Oil Age PS OnPoint David McNew/Getty Images

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The droughts, floods, and severe weather that come with climate change will leave the world's poorest and most vulnerable even worse off, overwhelming today's system of humanitarian aid. Only by strengthening poor people's climate resilience can they meet the coming challenges.

LONDON – As preparations for this year’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow intensify, attention is focused on efforts to prevent a future catastrophe. But real-time climate catastrophes already are playing out in the lives of millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. What will COP26 offer them?

Stick a pin in a map of global humanitarian emergencies, and you will most likely land on a crisis that has been caused or aggravated by droughts, floods, and storms. In 2019, extreme weather events pushed more than 34 million people into hunger and food insecurity. In the 55 countries with food-insecurity crises, 75 million children under the age of five are chronically undernourished and face higher risks of diarrhea, pneumonia, and other killer diseases that accompany droughts and floods.

Save the Children is responding to these emergencies. In the Horn of Africa, our nutrition programs are treating the children of farming families devastated by successive droughts, floods, and the worst desert locust infestation in a generation. In the Sahel region, we are working with communities hit by drought and displaced by increasingly deadly conflicts over water. But humanitarian efforts are being overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis – and worse is to come.

COP26 is one of our last opportunities to lock in the measures needed to keep temperatures within the 1.5º-2º Celsius ceiling set in 2015 by the Paris climate agreement. But even 1.5ºC of warming would have disastrous implications for poverty and malnutrition in the poorest countries. The evidence from climate science points overwhelmingly toward less predictable rainfall, more extreme, frequent, and protracted droughts, and more destructive storms. Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Association anticipates a long-term decline in food productivity in Africa, the world’s most food-insecure region.

Rich countries are already investing heavily in adapting to climate-change threats. When disasters strike, their citizens can fall back on elaborate safety nets, well-financed health systems, and insurance policies covering loss and damage to assets. Flood defenses are being strengthened across Europe, and America’s current Farm Bill includes a $39 billion federal insurance program to protect heavily subsidized producers against crop losses.

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