Climate change will impact every country on Earth, but it will not affect them all equally. It can be uncomfortable to acknowledge the stark differences in public health and health equity among different countries. As stark as these differences are today, though, we have to acknowledge that the differences are going to grow larger as we move forward in time.
It is essential to highlight that the impacts of climate change will be effects vary by country and region, and that is for several reasons. One of them is Geography. Some areas will benefit in some ways from climate change; for example, Russia will become more agriculturally productive, but many regions will actually suffer from climate change. The 2023 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that increasing weather and climate extreme events have exposed millions of people to acute food insecurity and reduced water security, with the most significant adverse impacts observed in many locations and communities in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Small Islands and the Arctic, and globally for Indigenous Peoples, small-scale food producers, and low-income households.
Challenges from delayed adaptation and mitigation actions include the risk of cost escalation, lock-in of infrastructure, stranded assets, and reduced feasibility and effectiveness of adaptation and mitigation options. Without rapid, deep, and sustained mitigation and accelerated adaptation actions, losses and damages will continue to increase, including projected adverse impacts in Africa, Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Central and South America, Asia, and the Arctic. They will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations (IPCC, 2023).
We also have to acknowledge differences in demographics and the distribution of age of the populations by country or region. Climate and weather extremes are increasingly driving displacement in Africa, Asia, North America (high confidence), and Central and South America (medium confidence), with small island states in the Caribbean and South Pacific being disproportionately affected relative to their small population size (IPCC, 2023). Also, the size of vulnerable populations, children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing diseases. Between 2010 and 2020, human mortality from floods, droughts, and storms was 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions compared to areas with very low vulnerability (IPCC, 2023). We have, of course, substantial differences in resources between countries and regions. These can be financial resources; they can also be natural resources, for example, the availability of clean, safe drinking water, and they indeed involve things like the status and quality of infrastructure available to each country. According to the IPCC (2023) report, adverse climate impacts can reduce the availability of financial resources by incurring losses and damages and impeding national economic growth, thereby further increasing financial constraints for adaptation, particularly for developing and least developed countries.
There are also economic impacts that will differ. The results will be different depending on those primary economic drivers. For instance, the IPCC report of 2023 indicates that monetary damages from climate change have been detected in climate-exposed sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fishery, energy, and tourism. Individual livelihoods have been affected through, for example, the destruction of homes and infrastructure, loss of property and income, human health, and food security, with adverse effects on gender and social equity.
Unfortunately, another reality of climate change is that poor and disadvantaged populations are already bearing the brunt of climate change effects, which will only worsen going forward. The IPCC 2023 report evinces that approximately 3.3–3.6 billion people live in highly vulnerable contexts to climate change. The report further details that human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming, with the worldwide surface temperature reaching 1.1°C above 1850–1900 in 2011–2020. Global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase, with unequal historical and ongoing contributions arising from unsustainable energy use, land use and land-use change, lifestyles, and consumption and production patterns across regions, between and within countries, and among individuals (high confidence). The impact is also more severe in drought-prone areas. For instance, in the drought-prone sub-Saharan African countries, the number of undernourished people has increased by 45.6% since 2012, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Cited by UN Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, 2022).
Although making a negligible contribution to global warming, Ethiopia is severely impacted by climate change’s effects on its environment, agriculture, water supply, food, and energy production. Ethiopia’s vulnerability to climate change impacts is aggravated by high dependence on climate-sensitive sectors for livelihoods, poor infrastructure, widespread environmental degradation and fragile ecosystems, and limited national scientific, technological, financial, and institutional capacity (Bishaw et al., 2013; Bewket et al., 2015; Bayrau, Bekele, Assefa, & Hagos, 2015; EPCC, 2015; Savage et al., 2015; Wassie & Fekadu, 2015; Simane et al., 2016; Esayas et al. 2018; Esayas et al., 2019a; Esayas et al., 2019b). It is a country that highly suffers from risks associated with high rainfall variability (EPCC, 2015) and is exposed to famine (Wassie & Fekadu, 2015). Regarding specific impacts, Ethiopia ranked 46th among countries most at risk from climate risk in 2019 (Eckstein, Hutfils, Marie-Lena, & Winges, 2019 p.29). This is because the majority of Ethiopians, 75 percent, rely on agriculture and pastoralism for a livelihood, in addition to the fact that the country is prone to droughts and floods. According to UN OCHA (2023), the severe drought in Ethiopia in late 2020 has continued into 2023 with the passing of five poor to failed rainy seasons. With each failed rainy season, the situation worsens, severely affecting pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities, especially in the eastern and southern regions of the nation. Food insecurity, malnutrition, access to water, and a deteriorating health situation with increased disease outbreaks are all made worse.
To enable Ethiopia to mitigate and adapt to climate change, Ethiopia launched the National Adaptation Plan (NAP-ETH), which provides an overarching framework for its response to the impacts of climate change. NAP-ETH has identified 18 adaptation options and five strategic priorities to be implemented between 2019 and 2030. It mirrors the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Process established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The NAP-ETH was launched focusing on the sectors that have been identified as most vulnerable, namely agriculture, forestry, health, transport, power, industry, water, and urban areas. Enhancing food security by improving agriculture productivity in a climate-smart manner, improving access to potable water, and strengthening sustainable natural resource management through safeguarding landscapes and watersheds are among the issues the program addresses. As part of this engagement, the nation has been planting over 25 billion seedlings in Ethiopia between 2019 and 2022 as part of a vast afforestation initiative (https://sdgs.un.org/partnerships/green-legacy-initiative).
Hailemariam & Roman Foundation (HRF) supports the development efforts of Ethiopia’s government, people, and development agencies through a series of interlinked activities and partnerships by making climate issues its flagship program. HRF’s strategic interventions have focused on critical areas that could contribute immensely to alleviating socio-economic and environmental problems. Through its Climate Smart Conservation & Eco-tourism Program, HRF has been partnering with different stakeholders and communities nationwide to promote soil and water conservation. It is also working with stakeholders in protecting critical watersheds and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources in and around six national parks of the country, including Omo National Park, Mago National Park, Gambella National Park, Chebera-Churchura National Park, Nech Sar National Park, and Maze National Park as well as Tama Community Conservancy Area.
HRF firmly believes that our biodiversity resources if sustainably and scientifically managed, would render good ecosystem services and cater for sustainable livelihoods to pastoral and agro-pastoral populations located in approximately more than half of the land mass of Ethiopia.
Hailemariam & Roman Foundation
April 2023, Addis Ababa