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Climate change hits the global South hardest — but only a quarter of Brits know this, survey suggests

10 July 2020

Third of respondents to Christian Aid survey said that white people were most affected


A man places his hand on the parched soil in the Greater Upper Nile region of north-eastern South Sudan, in April

A man places his hand on the parched soil in the Greater Upper Nile region of north-eastern South Sudan, in April

A SURVEY commissioned by Christian Aid suggests that up to one third of people in Britain believe that white people are hardest hit by the climate crisis, despite mounting evidence that it is the poorest communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and in small island states, who are disproportionately affected by the floods, droughts, and extreme weather caused by climate change.

The survey, carried out by Savanta ComRes, interviewed more than 2000 British adults. A similar number of respondents — up to one third — thought that all ethnic groups were equally vulnerable. Just over a quarter said that black, Asian, and Arab people were worst affected by the effects of climate change. The survey showed a clear link between awareness of the impact of climate change, and those who said that they were concerned about racism and race inequality.

Christian Aid said that the survey showed that there were huge gaps in understanding and awareness of the global effects of climate change, and called for an awareness-raising campaign.

Christian Aid’s director of policy, public affairs, and campaigns, Patrick Watt, said: “The poll findings suggest that most people in the UK are unaware of the impacts of climate change in poorer countries, and are perhaps more preoccupied with the effects being felt closer to home.

“One reason for this may be that the climate crisis in poorer countries is less visible in the media than the situation in places like Australia, where their terrible bush fires dominated UK headlines for many days. Yet evidence clearly shows those who suffer most acutely from the damaging effects of climate change live in the poorest countries, and, within those countries, in the poorest communities.

“These are places with majority black and brown populations, and with limited resources to cope. Often, the worst effects of the climate crisis reflect and entrench existing inequality. Be it indigenous communities in Brazil, rural families in Bangladesh, or pastoralists in northern Kenya, they’re on the front line of more frequent or intense droughts, floods, storms, failed harvests, and food shortages. Yet they have done least to contribute to the climate crisis. It is deeply unjust.”

One of the authors of the latest IPCC assessment report on climate change, Dr Adelle Thomas, who is from the Bahamas, said earlier this year: “The great tragedy of climate change is that it is the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer the most, despite us doing the least to cause it” (News, 3 January).

Christian Aid has called for greater awareness of the “inextricable links” between climate change, poverty, and race and ethnicity.

Christian Aid has commissioned a further study, to be carried out this summer, examining how black Christians view and get involved with climate-justice campaigns, to identify barriers to participation.

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