Torethy Frank, Vanuatu
Torethy Frank, a 39-year-old woman on Vanuatu's Nguna Island, carves out a subsistence lifestyle. She has never heard of global warming. She and her family have more immediate concerns—problems that are not spoken about on the world stage, and that do not attract the attention of the media or environmental advocates.
Samson Banda, Zambia
When he first got sick, Samson Banda didn't realize he had malaria. Only after he came down with a serious fever did he end up at a clinic in the Bauleni slum compound in Lusaka, Zambia. The clinic has just a few nurses and staff with basic medical skills. Locals can wait for an entire day to be seen.
Momota Begum, Bangladesh
Momota Begum (left) cooks the daily meal next to an open drain. Diarrhea is common. As a cart-puller, Momota's husband earns about $44 each month. Momota believes that education could help her children achieve a better life, but they cannot afford the $22 annual fee for books and uniforms.
John Mwila, Zambia
John Mwila is HIV-positive. So is his wife. One of his eight children is HIV-positive, along with a grandchild. His eldest daughter died of the disease last year. “We are not thinking so much about global warming... The weather has changed since the seventies and eighties, but we want the money to be spent on the problems we have here.”
Lakshmi Bera, India
One week after Cyclone Aila flattened Lakshmi Bera's mud, bamboo and thatched grass house in May, a Copenhagen Consensus researcher found her family of five under the open sky. Their only protection was a plastic tarp. "We have been living on a bowl of rice for the past few days", said Lakshmi "The food that we had stocked up was lost."
Mary Thomas, Tanzania
For Mary, arguments over the state of the ice on Kilimanjaro are irrelevant. She wants the opportunity to earn a living. “Education is the first priority and it should provide proper understanding of HIV and reduce the stigma. The next priority is micro-finance so people can have the chance to become self-reliant.”
Maya Bishwokarma, Nepal
Maya must line up with other local residents to collect water handed out every six days by government officials. Due to a long drought, the price of vegetables and food has soared. Maya says the government of Nepal and others should spend money "first on our everyday problems, then on global warming."
Mulegata Tesfaye and Konget Mekonen, Ethiopia
Konget and Mulegata earn around $70 a month working at a state-owned factory. Hunger is a constant concern for the family. "We are aware that our children do not eat enough," says Konget. His family can afford to eat meat just once a month.
Susan Wangiku, Kenya
Intestinal parasites have robbed five year-old Susan Wangiku of her appetite. They are stripping iron from her guts. When she eats, her stomach hurts afterward. Her eyes are swollen, yellow, and itchy, a sign of infection.
Susan Pasacay Aceron, Philippines
A lack of concrete roads and bridges mean that housekeeper Susan Pasacay Aceron’s four children struggle to reach school when it rains.
Florence Phiri, Zambia
Florence Phiri, 37, has never heard of climate change. It is not an issue that she and her neighbors in Lusaka, Zambia worry about. She scrapes by on $38 each month by selling ground nuts and vegetables and renting out one of its two rooms. Her family of seven crams into the other room. There is no running water and no toilet.
Helen Moraa, Kenya
For eight years, Helen Moraa’s neighbors have avoided her and stopped her from touching their children. Even here in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, where one million people scrabble to survive, there is a social hierarchy. Diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2001, Helen is at the bottom of it.
Real People, Real Problems
Stories from global warming hotspots
Media organizations in wealthy countries regularly send forth reporters to find “victims of global warming.” We see the terrible plight of those living in the shadows of Mount Kilimanjaro, or on the edge of the Zambezi River, and we are told that climate change will significantly worsen these fragile communities. Rich countries, we are told, must sign up to drastic, urgent carbon cuts.
But seldom do we hear from the local people who are said to be in danger. These people are not voiceless; we just pay no attention to what they say.
As part of the Copenhagen Consensus on Climate, the Copenhagen Consensus Center set out to ask people in global-warming hot spots about their fears and hopes.
Over the summer of 2009, the Copenhagen Consensus Center interviewed more than 50 people, all around the world. Our goal was to ask them about their priorities and concerns, and then consider the policy options that would help the most. Some of these stories were published, in the build-up to the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen, in the Wall Street Journal.