Climate Change Impacts Globally
Social Impacts of Climate Change
Climate change is already with us. From African farmers to Pacific islanders, vulnerable populations across the globe are already feeling the impacts. The time to take action is now. Projections on refugee populations can be read here.
While we are already committed to a warmer climate, it is not too late to avoid a dangerously hot and unstable new world. There is still a window of opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and realise the promise of a prosperous, fair and sustainable 21st century.
The evidence of warming is clear. Since the industrial era began, wealthy nations have released huge amounts of carbon into the earth's atmosphere and altered the surface of the planet. As greenhouse gas concentrations have risen, so too have global temperatures. The past decade was the hottest of the past 150 years, and possibly of the past millennium. The hottest 22 years on record have occurred in the 25 years since 1980. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts a global temperature increase of 1.4ºC to 5.8ºC above 1990 temperatures by 2100.
Climate change will affect everyone. In a hotter and more volatile world, both rich and poor stand to lose. Those already affected by poverty, malnutrition and disease will face displacement and new hardships. In the developed world, our industries, livelihoods and public health will face serious threats from drought, disease and extreme weather events.
Climate change is an issue of justice. The impacts of greenhouse gas emissions will disproportionately affect those societies who have contributed the least to the problem. Low-lying Pacific states, collectively responsible for fewer than 0.6% of the world's emissions, face dispossession. Yet the worst offenders, including Australia and the United States, continue to pollute at historically high levels. Justice demands that wealthy polluters should end their reliance on fossil fuels, and embrace a future based on a fair share of resource use for all.
Stopping Climate change is up to us. Our actions today will determine the climate of tomorrow. By choosing to take action now we limit the future damage. The alternative is an environmental, economic and humanitarian catastrophe of our own making.
This website summarises some of the literature on the social impacts of climate change in order to allow those concerned with justice and development to address climate change in the context of their work. An objective of this project is the identification of key social issues arising from climate change. Each area of impact was assessed against the following criteria:
- significance of the impact of climate change,
- vulnerability of the community affected and their ability to adapt to these impacts,
- ease with which the issue could be communicated to a broader audience, and
- likelihood to inspire action from a broad range of the Australian public.
Climate Change Impacts in Africa
Africa, the world's poorest region, is the continent that is most vulnerable to the uncertainties and weather extremes of climate change, because of ecological vulnerabilities and widespread poverty seriously limits adaptation capabilities. The IPCC found that "extreme climate events such as floods, strong winds, droughts and tidal waves" are the main threats to Africa from climate change.
"Africa - Up in Smoke?" is the definitive text on the social impacts of climate change in Africa. It finds that efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa will ultimately fail unless urgent action is taken to halt dangerous climate change and to assist communities to adapt to the inevitable impacts. The report also details innovative community driven projects to increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. The information on this page is taken from the "Africa - Up in Smoke?" report.
In Africa, over 70 percent of workers rely on small-scale farming that is dependent on direct rainfall. Food security can be threatened by even the slightest changes in weather patterns. The coordination of aid efforts and design of development policies will be seriously challenged by the impacts of climate change.
Impoverished, marginalised people are often directly dependent on the diversity in local ecosystems to support their livelihood. If climate change is not averted, an additional 80-120 million people will be at risk of hunger. Seventy to eighty per cent of these people will be in Africa, and the majority are likely to be women, who have a greater reliance on subsistence farming. Climate change threatens to wipe out plant species used in traditional medicines. The WHO estimates that 80% of the world's population in developing countries depends on these plants for primary health care.
In 2004, a locust plague occurred in several West African countries as a result of desertification and higher temperatures that are likely to have been exacerbated by climate change. The plague destroyed millions of hectares of crops, causing a food crisis for the people in the Sahel. An example of the impact of natural disasters is evident in the recent history of Mozambique, which in 2000 experienced the worst floods in living memory. The floods destroyed a third of the country's crops, entire villages disappeared, and hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless. It is estimated that up to 350,000 jobs were lost, threatening the wellbeing of up 1.5 million people.
Africa's vulnerability to climate change is also exacerbated by widespread poverty, recurrent droughts and floods, disease, conflict, and an immediate daily dependence on natural resources and biodiversity. Export trade barriers and the burden of unpayable debt further reduce the resources available for adaptation.
Two thirds of the rural population and one third of the urban population are already effected by a lack of access to safe drinking water in Africa. Climate change is expected to exacerbate Africa's persistent water-stress. Due to the large number of subsistence-based communities, water scarcity presents a very serious hazard for peoples' existence. As rainfall declines, the quality of water deteriorates because sewage and industrial effluents become more concentrated, thereby exacerbating water-borne diseases and reducing the quality and quantity of fresh water available for domestic use. In the Nile region for example, most scenarios estimate a decrease in river flow of up to 75 per cent by 2100, displacing up to 90 million people by 2015.
Loss of food and water security may lead to increased conflict. In Kenya, there have been territorial disputes over receding water bodies, and increases in cattle raiding and violence as as people who have historically managed through periods of drought and food shortages find themselves dealing with unprecedented famine.
The health implications of climate change for African peoples and nations is profound as many areas of Africa are already experiencing severe health problems such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and hunger related diseases. Climate change will increase experience of heat stress, injury and death from natural disasters (such as floods and windstorms), vector-borne diseases (such as malaria, dengue, schistosomiasis and tick-borne diseases) and water-borne and food-borne diseases. Women are likely to be disproportionately affected by the increased disease burden.
It is estimated that by 2050 there will be 250 million people who will be forced to flee their homes due to drought, desertification and extreme weather events. Worldwide environment-related migration has been most acute in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2005, Professor Norman Myers stated that of the 25 million environmental refugees recorded in 1995, roughly five million in the African Sahel and four million were in the Horn of Africa. In other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa where 80 million people were considered semi-starving due largely to environmental factors, seven million people migrated in order to survive. Of the millions of people starving in other parts of Africa, a large, but undocumented number could also be considered environmental refugees.
Climate Change Impacts in Asia
The Asia Pacific region is home to over 60% of the world's people, of which according to the United Nations two-thirds of whom live in extreme poverty. With such large proportion of the current population living in poverty, climate variability already has a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of people across Asia. Climate change exacerbated natural disasters, health problems and threats to water and food security will undoubtedly affect the lives of those who are without social and economic resources to adapt to climate change.
Infrastructure and housing is extremely vulnerable to climate change as many people live in environmentally marginal areas. According to the New Economics Foundation, more than 60% of Asians will be living in urban areas by 2015. The World Bank estimates that between 25-40% of all urban inhabitants in developing countries live in slums, with little or no access to clean water, sanitation or refuse collection. As global temperatures increase, cities with limited sanitation, and stressed water and waste systems are likely to become hotspots for diseases such as gastroenteritis (ibid).
In Bangladesh, around half of the country's population lives in areas less than five meters above sea-level. The Asian mega cities of Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Bombay and Manila are all built on low-lying coastal areas. The IPCC forecasts that mean sea levels will rise by approximately 80cm between 1990 and 2080. The combined effects of storm surges and elevated peak tides will particularly threaten communities of people living in low-lying areas.
According to major re-insurance company Swiss Re, 90% of the world's climate related disasters occur in Asia. The human cost has been the death of half a million people from climate related events since 1970 (ibid).
The New Economics Foundation considers water stress to be a major impact of climate change with some of Asia's major rivers such as the Tigris, Euphrates, Indus and Brahmaputra projected to fall by as much as a quarter. In the short term, the Himalayan glaciers have already retreated by 67% since 1990, and further summer glacial melt could increase summer river flow and floods over the next few decades (DFID). While flooding increases the likelihood of contamination of fresh water supplies, this pattern would be followed by a serious reduction in flows thereafter as glaciers permanently retreat. The trend of glacial retreat and reduced rainfall combined with the growing concentration of Asia's population in urban areas and higher per capita water demands, could prove catastrophic if freshwater reserves are exhausted (New Economics).
These changes in water security and environmental flows will not only affect health of the people of Asia, but also agriculture yields for the domestic and export market. This is an international issue with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimating that climate change could cost 65 developing countries about 280 million tons in lost cereal production, equivalent to about 16 percent of agricultural output. Across the developing world, climate change could potentially reduce the amount of rain-fed land by 11 percent by 2080. A United States Department of Agriculture study indicates that initially staple crop yields may rise but, as temperature increases beyond 1.2 degrees, yields will begin to decrease. The IPCC has already recorded a temperature increase of 1 degree since 1970 in temperate Asia and many other studies indicate reductions in yields due to reduction in rainfall and increased temperatures:
- In India, a temperature rise of 2ºC could lower yields of staple crops, wheat and rice by 10% and reduce farm revenues by up to 25% (Springerlink)
- The IPCC reports that marine products will be affected by increasing frequency of El Niño events, causing declines in catches along the coasts of south and southeast Asia, affecting food security and fish exports in countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
- Scientists from the Manila based International Rice Research Institute found that for each degree in temperature increase, there is predicted to be a 10% reduction in rice yield.
See also: Geo Year Book 2006
The IPCC anticipate the incidence of epidemic potential of malaria, schistosomiasis, and dengue and the likely spread of these diseases to new regions on the margins of presently endemic areas in tropical Asia. Water-borne and water-related infectious diseases, which already account for the majority of epidemic emergencies in the region, are also expected to increase when higher temperatures and higher humidity are superimposed on existing conditions and on projected increases in population, urbanisation,water contamination and other factors (ibid).
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), daily mortality and morbidity increases during very hot weather in Asia. Older age cohorts and the urban poor are most vulnerable. In May 2002, in the state of Andhra Pradesh temperatures rose to 48.88°C, resulting in the highest one-week death toll on record. Given the IPCC Third Assessment Report projections of surface temperature increase of 1.4 to 5.8ºC from 1990 to 2100, it is likely that heat related mortality and morbidity in the Asia-Pacific region will increase substantially.
Adverse health impacts in the Asia-Pacific region also result from the build-up of high concentrations of air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone, and air-borne particulates in large urban areas. Combined exposures to higher temperatures and air pollutants appear to be critical risk factors for cerebral infarction and cerebral ischemia during the summer months (ibid). In temperate Asia, the IPCC also forecasts that an increase in the frequency or severity of heat waves would cause an increase in (predominantly cardiorespiratory) mortality and illness. Studies of urban populations also indicate that the number of heat-related deaths would increase several-fold in response to modeled climate change scenarios for 2050.
The IPCC has predicted that extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, heat waves, avalanches and windstorms will increase in frequency and/or severity during the 21st century. Four typhoons in the Phillipines in 2004 killed more than 1,600 people. An estimated three million people were affected by the storms and more than 800,000 displaced. As well as death and displacement, physical injuries arising from these kinds of events can be expected to increase as climate change worsens.
Climate Change Impacts in Latin-America
When Hurricane Mitch destroyed crucial health and transport infrastructure in Central America in 1998, the United Nations found that development in the health sector was set back by decades. Climate change could do the same: undermining progress in human development as vulnerable populations face:
- Spreading disease
- More extreme weather
- Declining agricultural yields
- Damage to primary industries and fisheries
- Natural disasters
- Water shortages
Climate change will expose Latin American populations to new or intensified health threats, particularly from infectious diseases. Dengue fever and malaria are likely to spread as mosquitoes and other vectors move into areas that were previously too cold or dry. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on impacts, vulnerabilty and adaptation to climate change found that the incidence of water-borne diseases, such as cholera and diarrhoea, will increase.
Populations will be particularly affected when extreme weather events damage health and sanitary infrastructure. Vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the very young are likely to experience higher heat related morbidity and mortality, and will be disproportionately affected by increased ozone and smog formation in higher temperatures. Allergies too may increase. Rising ambient temperatures may increase risks associated with aquatic pathogens in important fisheries, and accelerate the spoiling of food and meat.
Declining agricultural yields
Security of food supply is a fundamental determinant of human wellbeing and a prerequisite for sustainable development. In the Global South, food production is a major source of employment and export earnings. The adverse affects of climate change on agriculture will thus disproportionately burden poor countries.
Much of the population of Latin America experiences inadequate food security, from malnutrition to the extreme of intermittent famine. Human Development Report 2005 records approximately 10% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean as malnourished. However, this figure is much higher in very poor Caribbean and Central American states such as Haiti (47%), Honduras (22%) and Guatemala (24%), which are likely to be seriously affected by climate change related extreme weather events.
While climate change may increase agricultural yields in some limited circumstances, the IPCC projects its effect on Latin America will be generally to reduce yields, and exacerbate food shortages, even with adaptation measures such as changing crops. The IPCC reports that parts of northeast Brazil already prone to famine are likely to experience very severe impacts on the yields of subsistence farmers.
Climate change will also reduce commercial farming and fisheries yields upon which poor countries rely for export earnings. Grain cropping production and forestry is forecast to decline. On the coast, the effect of sea level rise on natural barriers such as mangroves may threaten coastal farmland. Valuable estuarine fisheries may be lost, and tourism threatened by the bleaching of coral reefs.
Many rural populations in Latin America are already very poor and have few resources with which to adapt their farm practices or endure more frequent bad seasons. The World Bank notes that at least 70 percent of the rural population lives in poverty in Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru. Extreme poverty afflicts more than a third of the rural population in Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru.
Given the rapid urbanisation of the world's developing countries, the impact of climate change on the housing and wellbeing of urban populations is especially important. Like their rural counterparts, the most vulnerable urban populations will bear the greatest impacts. The major long-term impact is likely to be severe housing shortages and overcrowding as rural populations are displaced by drought and flooding. The lack of safe water and sanitary infrastructure in emergency camps or slum areas could seriously increase the incidence of mortality and morbidity from transmissible diseases. The IPCC reported in 2001 that these internal environmental refugees may 'present the most serious health consequences of climate change'. Violence and social tension, already severe in the poorest slums and shantytowns of Latin American and Caribbean cities, is likely to intensify.
The IPCC notes that those displaced by natural disasters in rural areas may remain at risk in urban areas where shantytowns and slums are often situated on land prone to flooding or landslide. Increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events will threaten these precarious settlements and their marginalised populations.
In some Latin American regions, declining rainfall and accelerated evaporation may reduce runoff, threatening the availability of freshwater for human and industrial consumption, Furthermore, loss of glaciers and ice fields may jeopardise drinking water supplies and yields from irrigated agriculture.
Climate Change Impacts in the Pacific Islands and Other Small Island States
The 22 Island States of the Pacific contribute less than a tenth of a percent of the world's greenhouse gas pollution, yet they stand to be the worst affected nations in a warmer world. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts Impacts on the Pacific and other Small Island States in the Pacific, Carribean and Indian Ocean that "are likely to be of a magnitude that would disrupt virtually all economic and social sectors in these countries".
Rising sea levels and more intense tropical storms will pose the major physical threat to island states. The IPCC forecasts that mean sea levels will rise by up to 88cm by 2100. These increases will result in higher maximum sea heights during storms, the intensity of which is forecast to increase by 10-20%. Thus even the small number of islands with significant land area well above sea level will experience more destructive storms.
Rainwater is the main source of drinking and irrigation supplies for many small island states. With little capacity to store freshwater, small island states are particularly prone to relatively short periods of drought. As rainfall patterns have changed, droughts have been experienced in Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia and Fiji. Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Cook islands have also experienced water shortages (Friends of the Earth).
Underground reserves of fresh water are also vulnerable. Irrigation and drinking water in many atoll states is supplied by a thin layer of fresh groundwater which sits atop the saltwater. These reserves are threatened by reduced precipitation rates and rising sea levels.
The combination of rising average sea levels and more severe storm surges threatens crop gardens in several smaller Melanesian and Polynesian atolls with saltwater intrusion and destruction by windstorms. Communal crop gardens on six of Tuvalu's eight islands have been damaged in this way, and some families have taken to growing Taro (root staple) in metal buckets to avoid the saline soils. Export cash crops, such as copra, coffee and sugarcane are also highly vulnerable to damage by heat, salination and severe weather (IPCC).
Rising ocean temperatures may affect marine ecosystems on which subsistence and commercial fisheries depend. Friends of the Earth reports that impacts will include coral bleaching, storm damage to reef habiats, and changes to current and nutrient upwelling.
Infrastructure and Land Loss
Previously attributed to unsustainable land development, coastal erosion is now increasingly exacerbated by storm and wave action. In Pacific States, affected coastal land not only constitutes a high proportion of total land area, it is also the location of most infrastructure, economic activity and agriculture (IPCC).
There have been reported losses of sandbanks and shorelines in Tuvalu (the motu [uninhabited small island] of Tepuka Savilivili), and in the Carteret Islands since the 1960s. Some islands in Fiji have retreated 30m in the past 70 years. In Kiribati, the motu of Tebua Tarawa, once a landmark for fisherman, is now under water.
Economic and social infrastructure will be particularly affected, and will require substantial defensive expenditure. In Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, sea walls have been constructed to try to protect existing infrastructure and halt the impacts of erosion.
Delivering "Climate Sensitive" Aid
By threatening the health and livelihoods of populations across the globe, climate change stands to undermine human development and worsen poverty. European development agencies have outlined the impacts and solutions in their report, 'More than Rain Identifying Sustainable Pathways for Climate Adaptation and Poverty Reduction' (2008).
Traditional bilateral and multilateral aid and development programs must now be reconsidered. In a hotter and more volatile world, emissions-intensive export industries can no longer form a just basis for development, and new attention is required to building resilience and adaptive capacity.
Increasingly, major non-government organisations are researching the impact of climate change on poverty alleviation, in particular the Climate Centre of the International Red Cross and the UK based Working Group on Climate Change and Development. From this work a number of case studies of low technology, grass roots programs to increase food security, water security, local disaster preparedness and emergency response are emerging.
These case studies indicate that funding for community managed resilience building or adaptation programs is crucial to averting the displacement of vulnerable communities. Increasingly, it can be expected that aid will need to deliver ecological benefits where they directly help affected communities. In many instances, good land management will reduce the direct impacts of global warming driven events: mangrove regeneration programs in Vietnam, for instance, provide a natural flood barrier during the typhoon season (Red Cross 2002 World Disasters Report).
International financial institutions and governments are increasingly supporting climate change and disaster preparadness programs, although such programs are slow to deliver on-the-ground outcomes of increased resilience and preparedness. Well resourced and long term projects have potential to establish alternative energy supplies, monitor local climatic conditions, rigourously measure any greenhouse gas emissions and build community resilience to changing weather patterns.
The Red Cross Climate Centre recommends a seven-step process for reducing climate risk in aid and development projects. This process starts with an initial assessment of climate variability in the project area, followed by awareness raising among project participants and partners. Importantly, The Red Cross Climate Centre also recommends advocacy programs to highlight the impact of climate change on vulnerable peoples, and the need to slow global warming.
Phase out Climate Intensive Development
Funding resource extraction and support of export markets across the Global South has historically been a major activity of many international financial institutions, government aid agencies and export credit agencies. Greenhouse gas emissions from industrial consumption of fossil fuels is now widely recognised as the cause of anthropogenic climate change. It is clearly now inappropriate to pursue emissions intensive development as the basis of poverty alleviation.
In 2000 the World Bank President James Wolfensohn commissioned the Extractive Industries Review (EIR) to evaluate how much or whether extractive industries (oil, coal and gas) contribute to poverty alleviation. After a two-year consultation process directed by Dr Emil Salim, a former director of Indonesia's largest coal company, the EIR was released. It recommended that several reforms be adopted to ensure that the World Bank be able provide the enabling conditions to meet its goals of poverty alleviation and sustainable development, including that it:
- Immediately cease funding coal projects,
- Phase out investments in oil production by 2008,
- Increase investments by 20% in both renewable energy and other greenhouse gas emissions reductions initiatives such as energy efficiency,
- Integrate human rights protection into all operations and programs in line with international law and obtain free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous peoples affected by projects.
Disappointingly, the World Bank did not accept these recommendations and continues to fund fossil fuel projects. In 2004 analysis of the World Bank's funding activities by the Sustainable Energy and Economic Network (SEEN) found that the Bank on average approved a fossil fuel project once every 14 days between 1992 and 2002. Its renewable energy lending is overwhelmed by fossil fuel financing by a 17 to 1 ratio.
Australia's export credit agency, Export Finance Insurance Corporation (EFIC) is tax-payer financed agency that underwrites loans to aid and development recipients and provides credit insurance and risk insurance. AidWATCH and the Mineral Policy Institute found that between 1993 and 2003, EFIC has backed fossil fuel projects over renewable energy projects at a rate of more than 100 to 1 with $7.2 billion dollars invested in fossil fuel (coal) exports in the eleven year period. This is not an uncommon pattern: half of all new greenhouse gas-emitting industrial projects in developing countries have some form of export credit agency support.
The principle objective of aid and development agencies is to assist the world's most impoverished communities to end poverty and promote human and economic development. Support for ultimately destructive fossil fuel projects is inconsistent with this goal, and should be replaced with support for genuinely sustainable social and economic development.
Impacts on Millenium Development Goals
Friends of the Earth Australia released a report in 2003, "Changing the future of the world's poor?" which outlines the impacts of climate change on United Nations Millennium Development Goals in the Global South. Below is an excerpt from this report.
There has been growing awareness of the impact of environmental factors on poverty - particularly for Indigenous peoples and peoples living largely subsistence based lifestyles. As climate change science has become increasingly clear, models predict that the poorest peoples of the world are going to be disproportionately vulnerable to climate change (see IPCC report). Poor populations have little ability to influence energy policy, and few resources with which to respond to the increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.
MDG One: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Economic sustainability is greatly threatened by increased extreme weather events such as cyclones, flooding, and extended periods of drought. These events are predicted to increase in both frequency and intensity with climate change (ibid). Natural disasters interrupt local and national economic systems through damage to local infrastructure such as roads, bridges and ports. Both large scale and subsistence fishing and farming is threatened by damage to boats and crops.
International climate predictions include increased periods of extreme dryness (drought) with shorter and more intense periods of rainfall (flash flooding). In addition, extreme weather events such a cyclones, bushfires and tornadoes, are predicted to become more frequent and more intense. Both of these forms of climate change will have a great impact on food systems and jeopardise food security in many regions.
MDG Two: To achieve universal primary education
The impact of climate change on education standards and accessibility is connected to the range of infrastructure, resource and service interruptions caused by extreme weather events and increasing scarcity of food and water. People will struggle to maintain regular schooling for children when roads are closed, buildings are damaged or when more time is required to get food and water. The economic impacts of climatic change for peoples reliant on natural resources such as crop farmers and fisher-folk will mean increased pressure for children to engage in paid employment rather than attend school.
MDG Three: Promote gender equity and empower women
Climate change will disproportionately affect the world's poor, approximately two thirds of whom are women. Women are also more vulnerable to death and injury from extreme weather events, are more vulnerable to communicable diseases, and have a greater reliance on subsistence agriculture.
MDG Four and Five: Reduce child mortality and improve maternal health
Women and children are most vulnerable to hunger related deaths and illness which would be indirectly exacerbated by climate change through increasing food and water shortages. Health problems caused by climate change include injury from increased numbers of people exposed to flooding, weather extremes and subsequent increases in the experience of cholera, diarrhea and malnutrition; and increased heat stress and heat related deaths (as evidenced by the 14,000 people who died from the heat in France in 2003).
Particularly concerning is the rapid increase in the prevalence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, with the susceptibility zone for vector-borne diseases growing as a result of temperature increases and seasonal abundance of mosquitoes. Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to malaria, which can also contribute to prenatal mortality, low birth weight and maternal anaemia (World Bank).
MDG Six Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
The impacts of climate change on the incidence of malaria is outlined above. Whilst there is no direct relationship between HIV/AIDS and climate change, peoples already living with HIV/AIDS will be extremely vulnerable to food shortages. Scientists from the World Health Organisation stated at the World Climate Change Conference in Moscow that an average of 160 000 people die a year as a consequence of global warming. This figure is also said to double by 2020 as climate change effects increase. Most of the global warming related deaths are a result of malaria and malnutrition as increased temperatures, flash flooding and droughts affect vector borne diseases and food security.
MDG Seven: Ensure environmental sustainability
Climate change provides an exceptionally clear indication that the over-consumptive and resource intensive lifestyles of the global north are compromising the future of the global south as well as our own unique ecosystems, human health and infrastructure. The already occurring experiences of climate change are a direct indication that we need to move to a future of sustainable energy sources and land-use practices.
Renewable energy and energy efficient technologies have the ability to provide the world with our energy needs, while providing the industrial countries of the world an opportunity to move to a fairer share of resource use (given that Australia needs to reduce its consumption of fossil fuels by a factor of 18).
Target One: Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
Increases in temperatures will lead to increases in evaporation of fresh water sources. Melting glaciers and ice sheets pose the risk of seasonal stores of fresh water decreasing. Predictions for the Australian and Oceania region are for drier seasons as we shift toward more El Nino like events, such as the droughts experienced in Papua New Guinea and Australia. In the 1998 droughts the Federated States of Micronesia ran out water and the US Government provided desalination equipment for the urban center of the Marshall Islands.
Target Two: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers.
In simple terms, not only will climate change increase the potential for slum dwellers to remain in absolute poverty, it will also render some nations of the Pacific and Asia without land for people to reside on.
MDG Eight: Develop a global partnership for development
The United Nations Environment Program estimate that climate change related disasters could be costing the world US$300 billion within a few decades. The benefits of investment in development could be entirely absorbed by dealing with the costs of weather related disasters, which in turn could affect the Gross Domestic Product, level of indebtedness, state of public finances, and investment in development in poor countries. Climate change calls for a collective response in the form of global partnerships based on the recognition that climate change presents significant threats to achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those related to eliminating poverty and hunger and promoting environmental sustainability.
|MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOAL/TARGET||CLIMATE CHANGE IMPLICATIONS|
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equity and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development
Increases in Refugees
As discussed throughout this website, the ecologically detrimental affect of climate change will jeopardise food and water security, health, livelihoods and infrastructure. History demonstrates that people move when they cannot sustain themselves as according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their World Disasters Report 2001, the year 2000 more people were forced to leave their homes because of environmental disasters than war. Approximately 25 million people could currently be classified as environmental refugees, amounting to 58% of the world's total refugee population. This figure is subject to some uncertainty as there is no fixed definition of an environmental refugee and or official record keeping on environmental displacement kept by the United Nations. For instance, in China, the government estimates that some 30 million people are already being displaced by the impacts of climate change. Some authorities have set the figure higher, at 72 million.
These estimates clearly indicate that significant numbers of people are already being displaced by climate change, and that the number will continue to grow in coming decades. According to Norman Myers of Oxford University, at a conservative estimate, climate change will increase the number of environmental refugees six-fold over the next fifty years to 150 million. This equates to 1.5 percent of the predicted global population in 2050 of 10 billion. Importantly, Norman Myers studied more than 2,000 sources of information to come to this estimate, and has since increased his figure to 250 million.
Myers projections assume no action is taken to slow global warming. He suggests that displacement will result froma variety of factors, and will occur in the following regions by 2050:
|Other delta areas and coastal zones||10|
|Agriculturally dislocated areas||50|