Developing strategies to end hunger

President Obama, Climate Change, and Global Hunger

Photo for Obama climate change plan

Women in Niger do laundry in what has become a dry riverbed. Photo Credit: U.N. photo by Jeffrey Foxx.

Today, President Obama unveiled a a detailed plan and directives to slow U.S. contributions to global climate change and better prepare for its impact. The proposal includes elements intended to reduce the major sources of the American carbon footprint, identify and implement strategies to prepare for the impact of climate change here at home, and engage with other industrialized countries, major developing economies, and others to have a wider and more effective impact on climate change.

Climate change experts are posting their analyses of the plan, considering key questions such as whether all relevant factors have been included, how effective the planned actions are likely to be, ways to improve the plan, and more. These are all important.

But what is missing from the top-line messages of the president's plan? Supporting developing countries' efforts to respond to climate change impacts that have for years been damaging the land, livelihoods, and health of some of the poorest people in the world. These efforts, now known as climate change "mitigation," have often progressed well beyond the "raising awareness" stages -- there was no real alternative.

Back in April 2009, Bread for the World was already pointing out that "For Poor People, Climate Change Is Today." The paper we published then noted that some Arctic communities have been tracking the changes for decades, described community-led efforts to combat deforestation in Kenya, asked "Where Will the Money Come From?" and suggested a way forward for hungry and poor people already affected by what others might still have considered a threat on the distant horizon.

While we can all agree that it's important to the United States to be better prepared for disasters related to climate change -- for example, ensuring that hospitals continue to function -- mitigation for developing countries must be part of an effective American climate change strategy. All too often, countries with very light carbon footprints must cope alone with devastating changes to their environments caused largely by wealthier nations.

Extreme weather affects children, elderly people, and poor people disproportionately, the president pointed out today. He was referring to vulnerable people in the United States, but the risks are even more urgent for their counterparts in developing countries. Michele Learner


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