Global warming, pollution and climate change are threatening the lives of people on our planet. Here, seven reportage photographers bring the reality home
Lead image: Quoc Nguyen Linh Vinh, CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year 2017
‘Climate change is at the heart of a global crisis that, for many countries, is already critical,’ says Gareth Redmond-King, head of climate and energy at WWF UK. ‘We are seeing melting ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland that are causing rising sea levels; changing habitats that lead to animal extinction and restricted food supply; and extreme weather that is devastating parts of the world at an alarming rate.’ In fact, climate change has already displaced millions of ‘climate refugees’. By 2050, 200 million people worldwide will have been forced to leave their homes as a result.
‘This is an equality issue. It is the vulnerable who are impacted most, even in rich nations like the US – it was women of colour who found it most difficult to get back on their feet after Hurricane Harvey,’ says Rachel Kennerley, international climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth. ‘The narrative around climate change is often that of a sad polar bear on a melting ice cap, but this is a human crisis, too.’ And yet, US President Donald Trump refuses to accept that climate change is happening. In June 2017, he rejected the Paris Agreement, which commits America and 187 other countries to keep rising global temperatures below 2°C. ‘The Arctic is already more than two degrees in polar regions,’ says Redmond-King. ‘Sea levels are rising due to melting caps and this has a devastating impact on low-lying countries, including Bangladesh and South Pacific islands such as Fiji, where people have already been evacuated due to flood risks. This isn’t temporary aid action − it’s permanent.’
In the UK, extreme weather and coastal erosion hints at the wider problem. Kennerley adds, ‘As the fifth richest country in the world − a country that benefited hugely from the industrial revolution − we have a responsibility to cut emissions and move our energy towards cleaner, renewable sources to help protect vulnerable parts of the planet where we are rapidly running out of time.’
Here, seven photographers who aim to humanise the plight of global populations affected by climate change, talk us through their most emotive shots.