Who is most affected by the climate crisis?

Ahead of the UN climate talks, we look at the communities who are often overlooked when we talk about the climate crisis. We're all impacted, but those impacts are felt differently depending on who, and where, you are. Find out how.
  Published:  21 Sep 2021    |      3 minute read

Climate breakdown will impact us differently depending on our circumstances and where we live.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the communities hit hardest by the climate crisis.

1. Bangladeshi lives in limbo due to climate-induced extreme weather

Woman in flooded street in Bangladesh
Woman in flooded street in Bangladesh
Credit: Fabeha Monir

In recent years, the severity and frequency of extreme weather events has risen. Low-income countries are less equipped to deal with the consequences of climate-induced weather, so are often hit the hardest. They don’t have the infrastructure to deal with the damage caused by weather events.

Bangladesh is a prime example. The nation is 80% floodplain with a large, exposed coastline, so it’s particularly vulnerable to floods and the effects of rising sea levels. A study published by the American Geophysical Union states that the country will eventually become uninhabitable if climate breakdown continues. It’s terrifying to imagine, but if we don’t slow down climate breakdown, Bangladeshis from all 64 of its districts will be displaced. A massive 600+ million people –10x the population of the UK - are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods, and 1.3 million are at risk of becoming climate refugees.

But communities are taking action. One of the groups formed to tackle the deteriorating environment in Bangladesh is Friends of the Earth International member BELA who pursue environmental justice through different means such as providing legal assistance to individuals and communities affected by environmental issues.

2. Communities in Niger Delta devastated by oil pollution

A contaminated creek in the Niger Delta
A contaminated creek in the Niger Delta
Credit: Luka Tomac

The science of climate change is well documented: polluting gases from burning fossil fuels, such as oil, accelerates global heating, leading to more extreme weather events.

Oil pollution goes hand in hand with oil extraction. Large-scale oil pollution by fossil-fuel giant Shell has devastated Nigerian communities in the Niger Delta for decades. Oil pollution has been linked to global warming, disease, toxic waterways, and thousands of deaths, including up to 16,000 babies in a year.

The Niger Delta is one of the most polluted areas in the world. The pollution is so bad that a study by the UN study concluded it would take 30 years to clean up. Thanks to the work of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, among other community groups and individuals, Shell’s exploitation of irreplaceable resources in Nigeria, and its by-product oil pollution, has finally been legally acknowledged. What’s more, in 2021 Shell was ordered to pay compensation to communities affected by the pollution.

3. Yemeni’s living in crisis because of water shortage

Yemen is one of the most water-starved in the world due to the naturally dry climate and rising temperatures. This of course has many knock-on effects, including loss of agricultural produce and livelihoods.

Yemenis having been living in civil war since 2014, and it’s important to acknowledge the historic connection between war and water shortage in the country. The Yemen conflict is complex, and we can’t say just how much the water shortage has contributed to the unrest. But, historically, as early as the 1970s, tribes have been involved in conflicts about water. The warming of the planet has worsened the water strain felt by Yemenis, contributing to pressure and civil unrest.

The addition of conflict which has led to one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises has added to the challenges facing the country.

Tackling our global climate crisis

Climate justice banner at a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline
Credit: Fibonacci Blue

Entire populations across the world are facing life and death situations daily because of the climate crisis. This is a global problem which needs a global solution.

With COP26 – the United Nations Climate Change Conference - taking place in November 2021, we need to ensure Boris Johnson and the government will take the necessary, bold actions to prevent further climate and humanitarian catastrophes at home and across the world. Especially in a year where we’ve seen extreme weather events escalate in scale and severity.

The responsibility lies with developed countries to meaningfully reduce emissions and provide developing countries with the resources and support to prevent catastrophe from climate change.

Our international network is working hard to raise awareness, campaign and fight against our global climate crisis. Learn more about the issues we’re facing globally and how we’re tackling them.