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Poorer nations are more vulnerable to the disastrous impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. The UN has forecast the potential loss of one million plant and animal species due to climate change. A deeper understanding of the relationship between nature and people (including their socioeconomic status and gender) is necessary to tackle this growing crisis. The disproportionate impacts of climate change mean many poorer nations are more exposed to extreme weather events and natural disasters. These countries are very often less resilient because of the degradation of ecosystems such as rivers, forests, coral reefs, and mangroves. Compartmentalizing the risks of climate change to make it more understandable and quantifiable is potentially dangerous - we are only now beginning to understand the intersection of inequality, biodiversity loss, and climate risk in the countries where extreme, climate change-related disasters occur, and the feedback loops set in motion will have cascading consequences that are difficult to foresee. In Bangladesh, for example, flooding is increasingly prevalent, causing destruction and displacement as sea levels rise. As more people have become reliant on coastal ecosystems these natural sources of protection are becoming less effective, and in Bangladesh alone more than 19 million children are exposed to the most hazardous consequences of climate change, according to UNICEF. Countries near the equator such as Ethiopia and Kenya are facing temperature changes that are exacerbating soil loss and desertification - creating the perfect conditions for locust swarms. The knock-on effects of crop yield loss and poor nutrition are impacting millions of people. Countries at high altitudes are also extremely vulnerable; the Himalayas have experienced rising temperatures, and melting glaciers and ice caps have caused landslides. The vicious cycle of increasing poverty, vulnerability, and inequality worsens the already precarious situation of many disadvantaged groups, and the degradation of ecosystems is often a manifestation of social inequality. The ways in which green infrastructure is developed (or not) can also affect inequality - both nature-based and socially-contextualised versions will be needed, to tackle disparities while restoring the natural environment and boosting local prosperity. History has shown the positive impact that proactively tackling global environmental issues can have; the partial restoration of the ozone layer through international agreements and the banning of plastics and chemicals in everyday products have benefitted everyone, but especially poorer nations. Building more circular economies and greater community engagement will now be critical for ensuring prosperity in the face of biodiversity loss.

The ’Biosphere’ and Inequality

KEY TRENDS

Widening inequalities