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Climate change hits poor farmers hardest, Bills Gates says

Tanzanian farmers learn how to space seeds, through One Acre Fund training. (Credit: Tom Murphy)

The world’s poor farmers are at the greatest risk when it comes to the negative effects of climate change, Bill Gates said. The Microsoft founder and philanthropist wrote a blog post that warns that inaction on climate change will harm people living at the bottom. And he includes a call-to-action to prevent worst-case scenarios.

“Yes, poor farmers have it tough. Their lives are puzzles with so many pieces to get right – from planting the right seeds and using the correct fertilizer to getting training and having a place to sell their harvest. If just one piece falls out of place, their lives can fall apart,” Gates wrote. “I know the world has what it takes to help put those pieces in place for both the challenges they face today and the ones they’ll face tomorrow. Most importantly, I know the farmers do, too.”

The call comes at the same time meetings in Bonn, Germany, seek to move forward negotiations for the Paris meeting on climate change. Gates and his foundation are pressing leaders to enact solutions to climate change and put forward the needed money. The Green Climate Fund, a financing mechanism designed to assist developing counties deal with the effects of climate change and reduce emissions, has raised just $10 billion – a long way from its target of $100 billion by 2020.

In July, Gates said his foundation would invest $1 billion in clean energy technology. In a follow up blog post later in July he made the case that such an investment can both help the fight against poverty and mitigate the effects of climate change. He also made mention that poor farmers are the hardest hit by climate change.

“I think this issue is especially important because, of all the people who will be affected by climate change, those in poor countries will suffer the most. Higher temperatures and less-predictable weather would hurt poor farmers, most of whom live on the edge and can be devastated by a single bad crop,” Gates wrote.

He says he believes that there are solutions waiting to be discovered that will limit the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, the safe line set out by scientists. It is innovation that gets the most space in the July post and gets more mention in his latest piece. He cites flood-tolerant rice and work done by the Africa-based farming nonprofit One Acre Fund (profiled in a video accompanying the blog post) as examples of high-impact innovations.

With a need for leadership on climate change financing, it may be Gates who fills the void. That will be tested during the Paris meetings, as will world leaders’ resolve to getting a deal done that can slow down global warming by cutting carbon emissions and making the investments to realize a low-carbon world.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]