Climate Change Impact on Lower Income Groups

Chandru Badrinarayanan

It is known that Climate Change affects humans and all other species on earth. Within humans, most often, it is the people lower down the pyramid who bear the maximum brunt of climate change. Yet it is these segments that are either unaware of the negative effects of climate change on their livelihoods or are simply resigned to their fate and feel they do not have the means to voice it.

How does the negative effect of Climate Change manifest on those who are lower in the pyramid?

Agriculture – Irregular rain patterns lead to poor crop yield, increased insect infestations, lower & lower water tables; Deforestation destroys river banks leading to soil erosion; food prices keep moving higher; loan burdens keep mounting leading

Animal Husbandry & Pasturing – Loss of livelihoods and income volatility due to increasing cost of inputs and reduction in grazing lands, higher costs of feed, increasing cost to maintain health, increasing incidents of animal pandemics leading to mass culling.

Drinking-Water – Scarcity of drinking water puts more pressure on the womenfolk of lower-income households and higher opportunity costs. This could be better spent in earning activities and girl-child education; Poor quality of water affects health and hygiene in the household and is also damaging to the mental health of women, especially.

Flooding – Lower-income groups are mostly in areas prone to waterlogging due to poor drainage systems, which become increasingly dysfunctional to cope with frequent and intense flooding. This leads to loss and damage to property, consumables and durables as well as loss of income and livelihoods

Higher temperature & higher humidity – Lower-income groups cannot afford temperature-controlled environments. As temperatures & humidity continuously rise due to global warming, people down the pyramid will find it more and more difficult to cope with the temperature rise. This will lead to more health issues, lesser sleep time and lesser quality of sleep, affecting their health and livelihoods.

Poor nutrition – Obtaining proper nutrition will become a double whammy for lower-income groups as climate change speeds up. Lower food production and a burgeoning population will lead to higher food inflation. Combined with loss of income or lesser income due to climate change, lower-income groups will not be able to afford the required quality of nutrition. They will have to make do with lesser quality of food containing poor nutrition, leading to more health issues.

Human Migration   – As food and water become scarcer, we will see a larger scale of human migration – inter-country and intra country. The poor get affected more in such situations. Scarcer resources also lead to higher strife in the region between communities, leading to the breakdown of law and order.

How would Climate Change and its effect on the poor affect economies of various countries?

When the majority of a country are affected frequently by climate change it leads to the breakdown of internal security, loss or erosion of economic growth and prosperity. Migration (both internal and external) puts pressure on existing infrastructure and pressure on government expenditure and incomes. The opportunity cost for countries will be huge as most of the population become unproductive due to the many manifestations of climate change.

Are there solutions to tackle the impending disaster due to climate change on the poor?

Solutions to tackle climate change and avoid a disaster on the majority population of a country should be multi-pronged. The first step is to build up awareness and the next is to build well-thought policy frameworks. Thereafter, these policies should be robustly implemented. Finally, an eco-system starts building around these to serve the intended purpose.

There are great starts in India in the government around awareness of the implications of climate change and also policy frameworks taking shape. Implementation of existing regulations is also getting better and better. Investor action is also leading to more changes in implementation and disclosures.

However, the public in general and especially the lower-income groups should be educated more and more on these issues and how it affects them. They should voice their issues more vociferously with their elected representatives and put climate change at the centre of all their issues.

Views are personal. The author is the Managing Partner, eCube investment Advisors 

An ESG & Climate change strategist Chandru Badrinarayanan, is the former Country Manager of Morgan Stanley Country International (MSCI) in India that partnered with सबेरा SABERA in the inaugural edition. MSCI shared the list of the top 100 listed companies in India, ranking high on their ESG index. Unfortunately, 4 years back none of the companies got the highest rank ‘AAA’, only 7 companies ranked ‘AA’ and all others were a single ‘A’ as per their ranking system. In the subsequent edition of सबेरा SABERA in 2019, Chandru came on board as a jury member, representing eCube Investment Advisors partnering with Dr Mukund Rajan, (SABERA Speaker).

Chandru continues to guide and mentor सबेरा SABERA as an industry expert.

You may also like to read the blog on Climate Change and Sustainable agriculture by Siraj Azmat Chaudhry, MD & CEO NCML and the jury chair for SABERA 2020.

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • Thanks Chandru Badrinarayanan for his comrehensive study and listing impact of climate change on lower income groups. I would request him to write another blog giving specific and bit detailed solutions about how we have handled issue so far and what’s the way to go. I think not only small percentage of low income group persons but 70 to 75 percent indians will be affected same way due to climate change. Most important solution to face climate change is tree plantation in a systematic way. In advance countries, cities look like forests and hill stations. We are far from it but at least towns and villages must do that as space there is of lesser constraint. When I first time visited villages near Chiplun or Sawantwadi, i felt cities are far better than those places. We need change there. Thanks for allowing us to respond.

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