Responding to the Human Impacts of Climate Change

19 September 2019

Topics: advocacy "climate change" cyclone drought farming "natural disaster" South Sudan Tonga Zimbabwe

What is Climate Change?

Scientists use the term ‘climate change’ to describe a variety of shifts in the planet’s global climate systems that affect weather patterns around the world.


Industrialisation and other human activities are responsible for emitting higher than natural levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This process results in what is called the “Greenhouse Effect” that is causing global warming. Global Warming in turn leads to rising seas; rising average temperatures; more extreme and unpredictable weather events; shifting wildlife populations and habitats; and a range of other impacts.


As a humanitarian organisation that works in crisis zones, we’ve witnessed first-hand the disastrous impacts of climate change on the lives and livelihoods of people; not just due to increased disasters, drought and other natural disasters, but also due to increased conflict over scarce resources such as grazing lands and water.  So, here are some of the ways that we’re working with communities around the globe to minimise the negative human impact of the changes being seen. 

Tonga: Weathering the Coming Storms

Did you know that the Island Kingdom of Tonga is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world for natural disasters?   

Last year, Tropical Cyclone Gita, the worst storm seen in the nation for 60 years, caused significant damage to island communities, destroying crops, buildings and livelihoods. As climate change worsens, the frequency and intensity of such storms is predicted to rise.

So, Act for Peace’s partner organisation on the ground, the Tongan National Council of Churches, is training local community members how to survive and respond to disasters. They travel to communities across Tonga, teaching people how to evacuate safely and prepare food and water so they can survive during a calamity. Trainees are also taught first aid; it’s a skill that saves lives when calamity strikes!  


Mele Loloahi Moimoi, Administration Officer - TCDRM Project which is run by AFP partners The Tonga National Council of Churches (TNCC) holding a first aid bag. Photo by Richard Wainwright.

South Sudan: Finding Water in the Desert

Three years of civil war and a harsh drought in the Republic of South Sudan have left more than 2 million ‘near starvation’ and twice that number of people severely food insecure.       

Famine looms. As Nobel Prize Laureate, Amartya Sen, noted, famine is caused not by a shortage of food or water, but rather human prejudices (like classism, racism and sexism) that prevent vital resources from reaching those in urgent need.  For example, as the World Bank notes: “[d]isasters hit the poorest the hardest…The poor tend to receive less support from family, community and financial systems, and even have less access to social safety nets”. This means that many of the least fortunate people in this complex crisis are at the greatest risk.    

Without water, we all know that crops, cattle and people perish. But finding water is almost impossible throughout much of South Sudan. That's why our partner organisation on the ground, Norwegian Church Aid, is drilling for fresh water sources and producing vital water treatment facilities for South Sudanese villages. 


Zimbabwe: Managing Food Insecurity

El-Nino is associated with changes in sea surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean that affects the climate system as far away as southern Africa. 

For farmers in Zimbabwe, crop production over the last year was diminished by unfavourable weather conditions induced by the El Nino. Since the start of the main season (October to May), rainfall has been generally below average across the Country, negatively affecting crop and livestock production.

To worsen matters, political violence and corruption have wrecked the national economy, leaving Zimbabweans highly vulnerable to the suffering caused by rampant inflation.  

Farming is the mainstay of the Zimbabwean economy, with 70% of the rural poor depending on it to feed their families. So, we've implemented 'conservation farming' projects in the country that can increase yields by upwards of 1200% (in comparison to traditional methods) plus we're training families how to find new income sources through bee keeping and fish farming. 


Edmore (43) and his wife Medina (42), conservation farmers on the Christian Care program working in their fields of groundnuts and their maize crop behind in Chitanga Village in Mwenezi District, south east Zimbabwe. Photo by Richard Wainwright.

Pressing Challenges: Here and Now

Sadly, the poorest and most vulnerable nations will be among the hardest hit by global warming.

We remain committed, as a humanitarian aid organisation, to helping these communities to survive and adapt to our changing climate.

But we recognise, too, that more pressure needs to be placed on corporate leaders and politicians to respond appropriately to this climate emergency.  So, to all the participants in the Global Climate Strike this September, we say: we hear you! We know it’s your future and you’re worried. So, we will also fight for your future, demanding political action from our leaders.