On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans celebrated the first Earth Day as a peaceful demonstration for environmental reform. Fifty years later, it’s now celebrated around the world and has paved the way for efforts like the Environmental Protection Agency, the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the Canopy Project. But these efforts have not been enough, and more than ever, the world is wrestling with the risks and effects of climate change, particularly on the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Last month, in the 50th edition of the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risks Report, all five of the top risks were environmental, including damage from extreme weather events, the failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation by governments and businesses, human-made environmental damage and disasters, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, and natural disasters. Although climate change is happening everywhere, research repeatedly shows that those who are already struggling with poverty, oppression and instability are being affected the most and will increasingly bear the consequences. That’s because the injustices associated with poverty, age, gender, social exclusion and weak infrastructure undermine these populations’ ability to cope with climate change.

For example, according to the World Bank, 78 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and most of them rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. That means that shifting weather patterns, rising temperatures, extreme weather events like floods and droughts and land degradation are putting the poor at greater risk of losing their livelihoods, being unable to feed their families, sinking further into poverty and maybe even being forced to migrate. By 2030, the World Bank estimates that food prices could be 12 percent higher on average in sub-Saharan Africa because of crop yield losses from climate change. Combined with the other effects of climate change – including increased conflicts and deadly infectious diseases – the World Bank warns that more than 100 million additional people could be living in poverty by 2030, and most of them will be in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Read the full article about climate justice by Joanne Lu at Global WA.