Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rich Will Suffer More From Climate Change - Update

I was fortunate to catch a repeat of the program I wrote about in my last post. Climate Matters on DD Lok Sabha TV was featuring the topic Climate Change and Urban Settlements.

The moderator was Dr. Suman Sahai and the panelists were Dr. Ashok Jaitly of TERI and Mr. Roy of Hazard Center Delhi. It was Mr Roy who made the comments on the rich likely to suffer more from climate change.

I caught the larger context in which these comments were made. The question asked by Dr. Sahai was on vulnerability of populations to climate change and whether technology can help in adaptation and mitigation.

Mr. Roy answers were what I had highlighted in my last post, essentially he was arguing that since the poor have so little they are less vulnerable - as he put it .. a person living by the sea in a boat will not lose out to sea level rise!..and ... the moderator chipped in with the gem..there will be more fish...

He argued that the poor already have the technology to survive and adapt in harsh conditions giving the example of shepherds in Rajasthan and the people resettled out of Delhi. He didn't elaborate what this technology was and whether it had helped them not just survive but improve their lives substantially over their previous experiences.

As a couple of commentators on my previous post have pointed out it is not a question of the poor just surviving on little or adapting or being less vulnerable but crucially how do we lift people out of poverty and enable them to better their lives in the face of many challenges that they face such as their lands being appropriated for various developmental projects and their habitats degrading due to over exploitation of resources like groundwater, with erratic climate now likely adding to their woes.

Flippant comments like a person living by the sea in a boat will not lose out to sea level rise do not begin to address the reality of the situation on the ground. I don't mean to suggest that Mr. Roy didn't feel that we should  improve the lives of the poor.. but his limited presentation of the issue did come out as a tad insensitive.

And no.. there won't be more fish with a sea level rise.. only a loss of coastal aquifers and coastal agricultural land.. and that means more landless migrants...

1 comment:

  1. From the time immemorial human started and flourished in thee banks of rivers and cities. And a good number of the major cities in the world is in the seaside no matter whether it is NewYork, Boston, Singapore or Tripoli..

    In cities both rich and poor are living in the tightly packed areas. And obviously most of the fisherman will live and continue to live (as long as they are in that job) in the shores only.

    What will happen if these people are displaced due to the rising sea level? will the alternate location offer enough employment opportunities?