For many Christians—who have cared for “the least of these” by supporting Christian relief and development organizations in their efforts to fight hunger, disease, natural disasters, and poverty—it is disconcerting to discover that these efforts may be insidiously reversed by the climate-changing pollution coming out of our vehicles, factories, and power plants. Most of us have grown up thinking of pollution as a local or perhaps regional problem, not a global one. We haven’t seen a connection between emissions coming out of cars in Kansas City and, for example, hunger in Africa.
But climate change is a natural disaster intensifier. It makes floods fiercer, hurricanes harsher, and droughts dryer. The world certainly doesn’t need more natural-disaster victims such as the father who, during the 2005 Niger famine, was found with his family hundreds of miles from the nearest feeding station: “I’m wandering like a madman. I’m afraid we’ll all starve.”
According to recent scientific studies, here are some of the possible consequences of global warming in the forthcoming decades:
- 40 million to 170 million people could be put at increased risk of hunger and malnutrition.
- 1 billion to 2 billion people already in a water-stressed situation could see further reduction in water availability.
- 100 million people could be impacted by coastal flooding, and millions more by inland flooding.
- 200 million could become more vulnerable to malaria.
- Billions of people could be put at increased risk of dengue fever.
- The number of children vulnerable to diarrheal diseases—the number two killer of young children in poor countries—could increase significantly.
- 200 million people may become “climate refugees” by 2050.
- Nearly 3 billion could be at increased risk for violent conflicts.
Clearly, contributing to climate change is the opposite of caring for “the least of these.”