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Facing a changing climate Help the world’s poorest people adapt to the climate crisis

By 2020, up to 250 million people across Africa could face more severe water shortages as a result of climate changerelated drought. Communities can adapt by planting drought-resistant crops or using new irrigation techniques.

The human face of climate change You know about global warming. You may already be doing your part to protect the environment. But climate change affects our entire planet: natural resources, wildlife, and people. And it’s the world’s poorest people who are affected first and worst. Droughts. Floods. Extreme temperatures. Severe weather events. Worldwide, climate change is already a reality for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

But there is hope. As a leading global power, and one of the world’s biggest historical polluters, the US can lead the race to find equitable solutions to the climate crisis. We should do the following:

People in developing countries are more than 20 times as likely to be affected by climate-related disasters as those in the developed world. In the 1990s, nearly two billion poor people were affected by these disasters, and the numbers are growing.

• Stop harming. The US must make a concrete commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions—and helping developing countries reduce their own emissions through clean energy technologies.

Future global warming will lead to water shortages, hunger, and disease, and could displace hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Reports suggest that international conflicts are likely to intensify as a result of increased competition for scarce natural resources. Given these predictions, Oxfam America and other like-minded organizations believe that climate change will significantly undermine the fight to end poverty and injustice.

• Start helping. The US and other high-emitting countries must provide financing to help vulnerable communities in developing countries adapt to climate change. • Establish fair solutions. Through US climate change policies, companies producing greenhouse gas emissions should contribute toward helping poor people here and abroad.

Adapting to climate change Adaptation projects help people deal with the consequences of climate change. By investing in projects that build communities’ resiliency and decrease their vulnerability, the US has the opportunity to lead the world in tackling the climate crisis. People have always adapted to natural variability in the climate. But human-induced climate change will create unprecedented stress, especially for people living in poverty.

• In Peru, people have revived an ancient canalization technique designed to provide moisture to farms during drought and drainage during heavy rains.

As part of the larger Oxfam International family, Oxfam America works with poor and marginalized people in over 100 countries. We have a long history of supporting vulnerable communities through our disaster preparedness and livelihoods work, and we’ve found that innovative adaptation projects are the key to coping with climate change:

• In Uganda, communities are using the radio and Internet to share early warning and climate information at the local level.

• In Bangladesh, villagers are creating floating vegetable gardens to protect their livelihoods from ruin by floods. • In Vietnam, communities are planting dense mangroves along the coast to diffuse the waves caused by tropical storms.

An investment in adaptation by the US can make projects like these possible around the world— saving lives and reducing the harmful effects of climate change. This investment should be new and separate from existing development funds, and it must be allocated fairly and effectively, with input from local affected communities. If we take action now, projects like these can help build people’s resilience in the face of a changing climate.

In Nicaragua, Oxfam works with local partner organizations to set up hurricane early warning systems that alert people to a rise in water level. Projects like these can help communities protect their homes from climate change-related weather events.

us recognize that the effects of “Let climate change affect us all. And that they have become so severe and so sweeping that only urgent, global action will do. We are all in this together. We must work together. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon


The need for urgent action The US now has several historic opportunities to turn the tide of the climate crisis. Ask US leaders to help the world’s poorest people by cutting harmful emissions and providing funds for developing countries to adapt. All of us—individuals, communities, companies, and countries—have a part to play in tackling the climate crisis. Individuals can be true agents for change, while companies can set a powerful example of social responsibility. But our political leaders have perhaps the most important role of all. In the months and years ahead, it is they who will shape the global solutions to the climate crisis—and the human impact of climate change must be at the heart of those solutions. Awareness about global warming is growing, and more and more people are getting involved. Oxfam America is determined to transform this public pressure into real policy change. Now is the time for the US to take the lead in creating equitable solutions to the climate crisis.

We have several key opportunities coming up soon: • A new presidential administration, and legislation in Congress, will set the stage for groundbreaking climate change policies. • Climate change will be a key discussion issue at the annual summit of the G8 country leaders. • The UN has already begun negotiations for a new global climate agreement to go into effect in 2012. By cutting emissions, funding adaptation, and ensuring fair solutions, the US can reduce the damage people are causing to the planet and its ecosystems—while helping the poorest among us survive the inevitable changes to their world. Get involved now, and join Oxfam’s campaign to ask US leaders to do the right thing about climate change.

While least responsible for causing climate change, poor people bear the brunt of its impacts. As an international relief and development organization dedicated to finding lasting solutions to poverty and injustice, Oxfam America is undertaking a campaign to create equitable solutions to the crisis. We are asking that the US cut greenhouse gas emissions and provide financial assistance so that the most vulnerable communities can adapt. For more information, go to

Photos Cover: Seedlings grow through the cracked earth in Gaat Teidouma, Mauritania, where Oxfam helped villagers build a dam to provide water for crops and irrigation. Ami Vitale / Oxfam. p1: Nthombifuthi Mbhele waters community gardens in KwaZuluNatal province, South Africa. The region faces a crop shortage as a result of climate-related drought. Matthew Willman / Oxfam. p4: A boy from the Wiwinik community poses with a hurricane early warning system on a riverbank in Nicaragua. David Vinuales / Oxfam. p5: A woman in Bangladesh floats down a flooded river on a collection of trash. In Bangladesh, where scientists have warned that a rise in sea level may flood 20 percent of the land, typhoons and floods have already increased in severity. Jane Beesley / Oxfam.

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