Mercy Corps: Climate Change is the Ultimate 'Threat Multiplier'

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Urges Immediate Action to Stay Below 1.5 Degrees C of Global Warming

Cazmira Cordoso lives in the mountainous village of Mulo, Timor-Leste, where Mercy Corps is helping 20 households work together to become more resilient to climate change. (Mercy Corps/Ezra Millstein)

Climate change is not a distant threat. It’s a driver of fragility and conflict today, and this report is a frightening wake-up call. If we don’t take urgent and concrete steps now, the world we leave to our children will be hotter, hungrier and wracked by conflict.

The global organization Mercy Corps urges governments, businesses and civil society to take urgent steps to stay below 1.5 degrees C of global warming or face catastrophic suffering around the world, especially among the world’s most vulnerable people.

Mercy Corps’ call for action coincides with the publication of the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, which warns that without drastic and urgent change, the world will warm by about 1.5 degrees C over pre-industrial temperatures by as soon as 2040, causing sea levels to rise, droughts and changing harvest seasons. As communities and individuals become more desperate to survive, climate change becomes the ultimate “threat multiplier” and may ignite social disruption and violent conflict.

“Climate change is not a distant threat,” says Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps. “It’s a driver of fragility and conflict today, and this report is a frightening wake-up call. If we don’t take urgent and concrete steps now, the world we leave to our children will be hotter, hungrier and wracked by conflict.”

Mercy Corps has long worked with vulnerable communities and individuals to adapt to climate change. For example, in Timor-Leste, one of the hungriest countries in the world, frequent floods, landslides and droughts pose serious threats to food security. Good harvests are a matter of survival. The organization works with communities there to grow drought-resistant crops and build bamboo walls to protect gardens from landslides.

“Three out of four people on earth depend solely on agriculture,” says Keny-Guyer. “Climate change turns people’s lives into a desperate guessing game, and for these people, the effects of climate change are a matter of life and death.”

Keeping warming to within 1.5 degrees C is vital if the world is to mitigate and adapt to the worst effects of climate change. Therefore, Mercy Corps calls for increasing the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar; helping communities better plan ways to reduce risk from natural disasters; ensuring vulnerable communities have access to good weather data and early warning systems; and developing innovative financial systems for people who have lost their livelihoods.

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Chris Allbritton
Mercy Corps
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