The Life You Can Save launches effective climate recommendations!

The Life You Can Save launches effective climate recommendations!

If we hope to end extreme poverty in our lifetime, we must also confront the impending climate crisis. 

The research is clear and alarming: climate change is real and already affects every inhabited region across the planet.[1] Global temperatures and sea levels are rapidly rising, global glaciers are retreating, precipitation patterns are changing and climatic zones are shifting. Climate change is the defining issue of our times, and we must act now to prevent catastrophic consequences.  

Climate research shows a clear link between climate change and extreme poverty. The climate crisis will affect everyone everywhere, but it will hit those in extreme poverty the hardest. That’s why, as a part of our broader mission of fighting extreme poverty, The Life You Can Save will begin recommending effective nonprofits operating in the cause area of climate change. For our U.S. supporters, we will add three high-impact, cost-effective climate action nonprofits to our curated list of recommended charities, based on research from Giving Green and Founders Pledge. For our Australian supporters, we will share Giving Green’s Australia climate guide. 

Read below to learn more. 

What is climate change? 

Climate is the average weather in a place over a period of time. Climate change is the shift in those average conditions “that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer.”[2] Climate change can occur due to natural processes, such as variations in the solar cycle. However, there is broad scientific consensus that since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, [3] and human influence has warmed the climate at an unprecedented rate. These activities, such as burning fossil fuels, increase the concentration of greenhouse gases (such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide) in the atmosphere. In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least two million years, and concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide were higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years [4]. These gases trap the sun’s heat, causing the planet’s temperature to rise. Given the interconnectedness of our planet, warmer temperatures unleash catastrophic consequences, including droughts, water scarcity, heatwaves, flooding and fires.

The most widespread scientific benchmark for measuring global warming is the rise in average temperature relative to pre-industrial levels. This has already increased by 1.1°C.  The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to ensure no higher than a 2°C rise by 2100 and endeavours to limit it to 1.5°C, though even that scenario would be catastrophic. The scale of global action required to limit warming to 1.5°C – a devastating, nonetheless best–case scenario – is historically unprecedented, and the window of opportunity is quickly closing.[5]

What is the relationship between climate change and extreme poverty? 

Climate change will both push more people into extreme poverty and catastrophically affect the lives of people already in extreme poverty. According to the World Bank, “up to 132 million people may fall into poverty by 2030 due to the manifold effects of climate change.” [6] The effects of climate change on the world’s poor include forced displacement, destruction of homes and property, health effects from extreme weather events (droughts, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, exposure to extreme temperatures) and impacts on crop yields, food prices and food insecurity.[7] 

Food security impacts: 

Climate change will threaten food security. Climate change effects such as increased global temperature, changed precipitation patterns, increased pest damage, higher frequency of extreme events such as heat, drought and floods can have large negative effects on crop yields,[8] particularly in developing countries. Climate change could result in global crop yield losses of 30% in 2080, even accounting for adaptation measures.[9]

By 2050, major cereal crops grown across Africa will be adversely impacted, although with regional variability and differences between crops. Climate change could lead to a reduction in mean yield of 13% in West and Central Africa, 11% in North Africa, and 8% in East and Southern Africa. [10] The expected yield losses are likely to translate into higher agricultural prices, which makes it extremely difficult to ensure food security in developing regions like Sub–Saharan Africa and South Asia. Combined, lower crop yields and higher food prices can increase risks of food insecurity and hunger and push vulnerable populations into extreme poverty. Note that changes in food prices disproportionately affect those living in poverty, who spend a larger portion of their budget on food than the rest of the population.[11] 

Health impacts: 

​​Climate change will have devastating impacts on health. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year from preventable conditions such as malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. Regions with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope.[12] 

Malnutrition and stunting: Climate change impacts on agriculture (lower food productivity and higher food prices) and natural disasters (increased drought or flood induced food shortages) can push those already in poverty to reduce their food intake and quality, resulting in malnutrition and stunting, especially in children. By 2030, an additional 7.5 million children may be stunted. And recent evidence suggests that climate change could negatively impact the nutritional quality of food (for example, its micronutrient content).[13]

Malaria: Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns increase habitat suitability and potential breeding grounds for biting insects, resulting in increased transmission of vector-borne diseases such as malaria.[14] Areas that are currently not at risk of malaria due to higher altitudes could be newly at risk, if such changes in habitat suitability and breeding grounds occur. [15] Globally, warming of 2°C or 3°C could increase the number of people at risk for malaria by up to 5%, or more than 150 million people. In Africa, malaria could increase by 5-7% among populations at risk in higher altitudes, leading to a potential increase in the number of cases of up to 28%.[16] 

Diarrhea and other water-borne diseases: Increased temperatures and water scarcity could lead to increased water-borne diseases. Generally, increased temperatures favor the development of pathogens and climate change induced droughts, floods and extreme weather events reduce potable water supplies. Such water scarcity and stress can push vulnerable populations to use lower quality water sources and thereby increase water-associated diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and schistosomiasis. Climate impacts could increase the burden of diarrhea by up to 10% by 2030 in some regions. An estimated 48,000 additional deaths among children under the age of 15 resulting from diarrheal illness are projected by 2030.[17] 

These conditions do not just threaten the physical health of those living in extreme poverty. They would also  threaten their livelihood and reduce opportunities to escape poverty — for instance, by preventing them from going to school or work. 

Natural Disasters: 

Natural disasters push 26 million people into poverty every year, with long-term human capital and welfare impacts.[18] Climate change is expected to increase natural disasters and extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts, floods and cyclones. For example, the number of people exposed to river floods could increase by 4-15% in 2030 and 12-29% in 2080, and coastal flood risks can increase rapidly with sea level rise [19]. Globally, about 1.47 billion people are estimated to be living in areas with high flood risk, including about 132 million poor people, as defined by the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day. If using higher poverty lines (for instance, the US$5.50 line), about half the population exposed to catastrophic floods is poor. [20]

There is substantial evidence that indicates that people living in poverty are especially vulnerable to shocks, such as natural disasters and lose more when such shocks occur. For example, they often do not save at financial institutions and possess their wealth in vulnerable forms such as livestock. The quality of their assets is also lower than average and less resistant to natural disasters. A typical house in a slum, for instance, might be completely destroyed by even a minor flood. Moreover, poor people’s overall vulnerability is exacerbated by their dependence on ecosystems and the large fraction of their budget dedicated to food. Therefore, it is expected that climate induced natural disasters will worsen extreme poverty. [21] 

How did The Life You Can Save select effective climate change recommendations? 

The Life You Can Save recommends nonprofits working with a wide range of causes, geographies, and approaches to creating impact. Many of The Life You Can Save recommended nonprofits work on very specific issues. This makes it easier to evaluate their impact. Hence, the interventions run by these organizations are in the cost realm of $2 anti-malarial bed nets, 53 cent micronutrients, or $50 cataract surgeries. That being said, The Life You Can Save also recommends nonprofits that engage in hard–to–measure work, such as policy advocacy. We recommend them because their work can have an outsized potential impact in helping people in extreme poverty. 

Climate change is a cause area where impact is difficult to measure and attribute. For example, it is challenging to quantify the impact of climate action charities using a counterfactual-based approach (what’s an appropriate “control group” for Planet Earth?) or standard metrics like “number of lives saved”. However, the climate crisis requires us to act now and the work of climate action charities could potentially move the needle on global extreme poverty. We are committed to identifying the most effective nonprofits tackling climate change using methods and metrics that provide alternative ways of thinking about impact.

 To select effective climate change recommendations, The Life You Can Save draws on research by leading climate change organization evaluators that produce actionable, dynamically updated, evidence-based guides to fight climate change. These evaluators are equipped to look into numerous climate change charities in-depth and are constantly assessing work being done in the world of climate change. We used their findings to inform our list of highly impactful, cost-effective climate change recommendations. 

In the USA, The Life You Can Save has drawn on existing research by Giving Green and Founders Pledge to curate our climate change recommendations. 

View The Life You Can Save US Climate Change Recommendations Here!

In Australia, The Life You Can Save is pleased to share Giving Green’s evidenced-based guide to help Australian donors fight climate change. Giving Green is an initiative of IDinsight, a mission-driven global advisory, data analytics, and research organization that helps leaders maximize their social impact. To create the guide, Giving Green reviewed the space of climate organizations in Australia, defined a strategy for selecting organizations, determined research priorities and conducted in-depth research of potential organizations to recommend. This ambitious research project was funded by The Australian Ethical Foundation. 

Email me Giving Green’s Australia guide

In the future, we hope to continue providing more effective climate recommendations through our new in-house evaluation process. You can learn more about our in–house evaluation process here


[1] IPCC, Summary for Policymakers in Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. 

[2] IPCC, Glossary in Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5°C 

[3] UN, What Is Climate Change? 

[4] IPCC, Summary for Policymakers in Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. 

[5] United Nations Human Rights Council, Climate change and poverty: report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

[6] World Bank, Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020: Reversals of Fortune

[7] IPCC, Summary for Policymakers in Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability 

[8] IPCC, Food Security in Special Report on Climate Change and Land

[9] World Bank, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty

[10] World Meteorological Organization, State of the Climate in Africa 2019

[11] World Bank, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty

[12] WHO, Climate change and health 

[13] World Bank, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty

[14] UNFCCC, Climate Change Is an Increasing Threat to Africa

[15] Joint paper presented at the Eighth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Poverty and Climate Change: Reducing the Vulnerability of the Poor through Adaptation

[16], [17] World Bank, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty

[18] COP26 Climate Brief, Adaptation and Resilience: A Priority for Development and Poverty Reduction

[19] World Bank, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty

[20] World Bank, Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020: Reversals of Fortune

[21] World Bank, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty


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About the author:

Anam Vadgama

Executive Business Partner

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.