climate change equality food race

The nexus of hunger and climate change

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how levels of hunger have stopped falling and started rising again. Climate change is one of the major reasons for the reversal in progress, and a report this week reinforces that point.

The Climate and Food Vulnerability Index has been developed by Christian Aid, and it is described in their new report Hunger Strike. The index ranks countries by their vulnerability to food insecurity, and compares it to per capita CO2 emissions. The result is a stark indicator of the injustice of climate change.

The country that comes at the top of the rankings for food insecurity is Burundi, the most vulnerable out of the 113 countries studied. Where does it come on per capita emissions? Dead last, in 113th place. The country where people have the smallest carbon footprints, and are therefore the least responsible for global climate change, is the most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.

The rest of the top five is DR Congo, Madagascar, Yemen, and Sierra Leone. The average carbon footprints of these countries is minuscule by global standards – for Burundi it is 0.027 tonnes per person per year. Compare that to the United States. The average US citizen has a footprint of 15.74 tonnes.

One American has the same climate impact as 581 people from Burundi.

Under the current Republican administration, the official policy of the United States is one of climate denial. Since Syria joined the party late, the United States is in a minority of one in refusing to participate in the Paris Agreement. It will not be immune to climate chaos, but it scores very low on The Climate and Food Vulnerability Index. It’s one of the least vulnerable countries to food insecurity, alongside the UK, Ireland and Singapore. Ignoring the climate crisis is a luxury – others will pay the price of its inaction.

It’s not something highlighted by Christian Aid, but I want to point out another feature of the Index. Of the ten most vulnerable countries, 9 out of 10 are majority black nations, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The exception is war-torn Yemen. With the exception of Singapore, the top ten least vulnerable are all majority white.

So however uncomfortable it makes us feel, we need to stop thinking of the climate crisis as an environmental issue. It’s also a vast global injustice with a stark racial angle.

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