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Testimony of David Waskow, Climate Change Program Director, Oxfam America before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee


Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection

Good morning Mr. Chairman, Senator Corker and Members of Subcommittee. I am David Waskow, the Climate Change Program Director at Oxfam America.

Oxfam America is an international development and humanitarian organization that works with communities and partner organizations in more than 120 countries to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.

We have come to see climate change as one of the greatest challenges to our efforts in the 21st century to promote development and reduce global poverty. In our operations spanning Africa, Latin America, and East Asia, our staff and partners are already responding to the serious impacts of climate change, from increasingly severe weather events to water scarcity. Moreover, as the science indicates, poor and vulnerable communities around the world will increasingly bear the brunt of the consequences of global warming, threatening the lives of millions of people and undermining global stability and security.

As you know, climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions and cooperation. This is true not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to combat climate change impacts already underway. In order for the United States to lead in addressing the devastating effects of climate change on the world's poor, as well as successfully negotiate a comprehensive global climate agreement, we must provide meaningful resources to support the efforts of vulnerable developing countries to adapt and build resilience to climate impacts.

Millions of lives and, in some cases, the literal survival of vulnerable nations depends on a significant and sustained financial commitment from the United States and other developed countries. Moreover, we cannot afford to put our security at risk as a result of inattention to the destabilizing impacts of climate change in impoverished countries around the world. The necessity of such action is complemented by the economic benefits it can provide, both for developing countries themselves and for businesses and workers in the United States who can partner with communities internationally to deliver adaptation products and services.

Congress has a unique opportunity to invest in adaptation solutions today that will pay off both immediately and in the future, and we urge you to help ensure that at least 3% of the resources in comprehensive climate and energy legislation are devoted to adaptation efforts in vulnerable developing countries. While these resources alone would not meet the substantial need for adaptation funding according to recent estimates, and must be augmented through other sources, providing this support in a U.S. climate bill is an important step to addressing critical needs in developing countries.

As President Obama recently stated before the United Nations: "For these are the nations that are already living with the unfolding effects of a warming planet -- famine and drought; disappearing coastal villages and the conflict that arises from scarce resources. Their future is no longer a choice between a growing economy and a cleaner planet, because their survival depends on both. It will do little good to alleviate poverty if you can no longer harvest your crops or find drinkable water. That is why we have a responsibility to provide the financial and technical assistance needed to help these nations adapt to the impacts of climate change and pursue low-carbon development."

The reality is dire for the world's poor who stand on the front lines of the global climate crisis that they are least responsible for causing. People living in developing countries are 20 times more likely to be affected by climate-related disasters - such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes - compared to those living in the industrialized world. In the 1990s alone, nearly two billion people in developing countries were affected by climate-related disasters.

The estimates of climate change's contribution to worsening conditions are disturbing. Weather extremes, food and water scarcity, and climate-related public health threats are projected to displace between 150 million and one billion people as climate change unfolds. Our already strained capacity to respond to natural disasters and health crises around the world is being stretched even further by the increasing harm caused by climate change impacts. Developing countries' struggle to maintain food security is made even more acute in the face of declining agricultural productivity and the loss of crops to weather-related disasters. The very lifeline of the world's poorest countries, where communities depend on agriculture for their very existence, is being frayed.

Moreover, the consequences of climate change reach significantly beyond these direct impacts. Global stability and security will be undermined by increasing migration and refugee crises, by conflicts over ever-scarcer natural resources, and by economic and political destabilization as poverty and food insecurity grow.