The notes will include textual notes and incorporated questions that I am asked as a student during the study process. I'll try to keep postings as structural as possible so you can retrace various articles if want to.
Climate Change and Development: the challenges of our time
<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.0 <!--[endif]-->Climate change and development: challenges of our time.
Climate change and development are arguably the two most important challenges facing the world. This section outlines the context, nature, and scale of these two challenges and introduces some important parallels and interactions between them.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->define the terms 'climate change' and 'development'
<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.1. <!--[endif]-->Climate change challenges are depending on the particular location and its various characteristics (economic, social, current climate issues etc.). Climate change is a long term alterations in the behaviour patterns of the atmosphere, caused by millennia of natural, and more recently, by human causes. Climate consists of many variables- temperature, precipitation (rainfall, hail, snow) and its patterns, wind direction and speed, atmospheric pressure, humidity, nature and extent of clouds, hours and intensity of sunlight. It varies spatially also depending on distance from the sea (altitude) or equator (latitude), and temporally by variations of seasons or even days. Due to this amount of various factors that make up the climate change, it should not be confused with global warming, since global warming is only one contributing factor. This factor, however, should not be diminished either, since very small increase in global average temperature can have adverse effects on the climate or some of its other „components”. One should also acknowledge that global warming as a trend can be accompanied by local or temporary falls of temperature.
Climate change definitions also differ by the organisation that uses it. Climate change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. Therefore this definition differs from use of climate change term in the UNFCCC, where it refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.
It is recognized that anthropological climate change main factors are burning fossil fuels for transport, energy and industry, vegetation (forest) clearance, and livestock keeping. All of these increase the global temperature and affect the natural cycles of climate change that lead into a kind of a vicious circle – the larger the temperature, sea level and climate change scale rise, the more it increases. IPCC has clearly explaining figures that show how a very small change in temperature can have major adverse effects on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, economics and production, and even basic human needs like accessibility of water, food and health, and change the territories like coastlines. There are two approaches in calculating the rise of temperature. First one is the rise from the average pre-industrial conditions (around 1850), and it is mostly used in various policies and policy discussions about global warming. The second is rise from the average of period1980-1999 that is used in IPCC materials. One should remember that 2C above pre-industrial temperature is about 1.5C above period 1980-1999, and about 1.2 C above 2007 since there was rather rapid growth of temperature from the middle of the period IPCC uses as a baseline.
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (FAR) predicted that world will experience rise of a little under 1C already by 2020, and rise above 1.5C by 2050. The continuing increase of temperature will depend on socio-economic pathways, world’s capabilities of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Some models and present facts show that some climate indicators are already approaching the upper end of the predicted range or even growing at greater rates like sea level rise, for example. The nearest projection of the temperature rise of 1C can seam little, but the effects expected are large- it will increase water availability in moist tropics and high latitudes, but will decrease water availability and increase drought in mid-latitudes and semi-arid low latitudes, that will lead to hundreds of millions of people exposed to increased water stress. 1C increase will lead to increased coral bleaching; increasing species range shifts and wildfire risk, increasing amphibian extinction. It will also affect food production by having complex, localised negative impacts on small holders, subsistence farmers and fishers, depending on the location it will increase or decrease the crop productivity. Coasts will experience increased damage from floods and storms that will put more and more people under flood risk every year. Temperature rise of 1C will affect the health of people, increasing burden from malnutrition, diarrhoeal, cardio-respiratory, and infectious diseases. Even sooner increased morbidity and mortality from heat waves, floods and droughts is expected, and so is the change in distribution of some disease vectors. There will be also singular events like local retreat of ice of Greenland and West Antarctic. With every degree of temperature rising there will be more and increasing severe impacts on already mentioned areas, and one can expect structural and irreversible changes in behaviour of the aquatic and climate system that will in turn have adverse effect on climate.
Most of the affected people will be at the developing countries, and it is billions in numbers. These are the countries that have the least capability to mitigate or adapt to the coming changes or already present climate change impacts. Already complex development issues of these countries are becoming threatened by the new challenges of adaptation to the climate change. There are also many issues of development that are obstacles of the adaptation.
Q- Given the scale and severity of the impacts discussed above, are there other natural, social, and political impacts that might be expected to result from climate change? What do you think these might be?
Few important natural impacts should be mentioned. One of them is the variety of tipping points that our planet has that are relevant to the climate change. One of such is the natural storage of methane that is located in permafrost and deep ocean crystals. Once the permafrost starts to melt, and latest data shows that it has begun already, it will release huge amounts of methane in the atmosphere, and even though its life span is shorter, methane is the one GHG that has about 20 times larger warming effect than the CO2. If more methane gets into the atmosphere, the faster increase of global temperature will happen, and if this process reaches the tipping point that will in turn accelerate further melting of permafrost, turning it into a vicious circle.
Since climate change will lead to mass migration that will start at smaller levels in nearer periods but will grow with time, there will be unresolved question what to do with the climate refugees from developing countries that are not capable to take care of them. At more technologically and financially well adapt areas there will be a discussion of social and economic costs of relocation of people in coastal or low laying areas vs. adaptation measures. Currently there are discussions about funding clean development, adaptation and mitigation measures and technologies, continuous aid to developing nations, however, with time the matter will become more and more pressing, increasing number of people and countries will occur in need of help, and then the political question whether to fund the aid will become more daunting, especially if climate change impacts will need attention at home too.
There are also several security issues that will rise. One of how to deal with climate refugees that will increase in number and will look forward to other countries to take them in. Will they open or close their borders and access to their resources? Current rate of arms race makes one think that many countries will not be willing to share their resources but rather try to use the ones of others. Many countries that are already civil or international war torn will experience increasing competition in attempts to control the resources in their territories. Many new military conflicts are expected to break out in resource scarce areas. That will add the regular war and post-war effects to the ones of climate change.
The ethical and emotional aspects should also be included in the discussions. People not only physically need the food, water, shelter, health, but also are emotionally attached to all that. Relocation of climate affected inhabitants will also need psychological help. Educating every individual and preparing them for the issues of climate change should be on policies and development plans. Ethical questions of whose responsibility is the climate change will also be a difficult one. Developing nations are rightfully blaming the industrialised nations for past emissions, but developed countries are not only unwilling to give up their „business as usual” is not the only issue here. Their people feel they also should not pay for their predecessors. They as individuals feel they should have the same weight of responsibility as any other person on the planet, but that is unreachable since there are large differences on people’s willingness to change their behavioural patterns at the nearest future.
Behavioural questions will also matter with increasing climate change. Currently some people live on nothing and wish to earn at whatever cost for the planet, some people consume and pollute unreasonably not willing to change. Some people are leaders of changing the behaviour to mitigate climate change and promote sustainable development, and then there’s part of people willing to change their behaviour only if all of the others will do. Social movements and unity of people have had immense power in history, will people be able to act in union with climate change impacts increasing by years is the question that will be answered only when the time comes. They might as well go for the “strongest will survive” option disregarding morals and higher human values when the extinction, famine, thirst and loss of homes start.
If we look at the opportunities to reduce the impacts of climate change and how they would affect various people, various scenarios can be built. Development of clean technologies, localised organic food production, green urban development, education of society at all levels, alternative energy, alternative transport and home redevelopment, cradle to cradle production, etc. If these things would become a common way of life in few places, they would become also more available for others too and therefore spread. Taking the opportunity to mitigate the climate change and limit the global warming at the temperature increase that does not cause irreversible and existential changes in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems would have immense impact on all of the people. Depending on timing it could not only spare people the worst of the above impacts of climate change, but could also contribute in development.
Development is a rather difficult term to define. There are two main approaches that have defined the development. First, it is the economic dimension of development that looks for improvement in economies; income based living conditions, consumption and production, savings and investments, food security, poverty reduction, wealth and income distribution, and environmental protection. Usually the processes that could lead to the above mentioned goals are economic policies, infrastructural and market development, investment, economic and social structural changes, technical change, efficiency. Second is the human or social dimension of development that looks for improvement in capabilities, access to health and education, gender equality, human rights, equity, freedom, empowerment, particular focus on minority and marginalized groups, security, dignity. Processes that are supposed to lead to the above goals are equitable economic growth, empowerment, governance, change in formal and informal rights and social and economic relations. Such distinction between goals and processes is not really reflecting the true nature of development since many goals are parts of the processes as well and they are very complex and interrelating systems. Also interactions between economic and social development processes and goals is important, they are not so separated in reality. Greater economic wealth is needed to invest in education, health and social services. In turn education is needed for improved economic growth, and so on.
When one speaks about development it must be understood that the way we see it depend on our cultural and educational background. Throughout the history development in many parts has been an export of Western values and lifestyle. Since the Enlightenment civilization vs. barbarism ideas have been on the minds of “developed” nations, and so they have continued to be until now.
One other development has been missing on the above categorizing though; it is the Sustainable development that is a whole new approach. Even though there is no one set definition of sustainable development, most common one is the Brundtland Report definition- “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. As for sustainability definition, there are three pathways of it. Environmental sustainability means the ability of environmental resources to support an activity or set of activities. Economic sustainability describes the ability of an activity or set of activities to yield economic benefits greater than economic costs. Social sustainability is the ability of social structures and behaviour to support an activity without being undermined by it.
There are six defined properties of sustainable system (viability (or productivity), acceptability (or equity), persistence, stability, resilience, resistance) that are needed for all- economic, social, environmental- stability, however, one should assess and measure them with proper analyses and boundaries of particular system, but with a space to evolve. These six properties are usually divided in two aspects of sustainability. First viability and acceptability: a system must be both viable and acceptable for those who work it, since something that’s not acceptable, will not work in long term, and that should include both physical and ethical boundaries. Second is how particular system is sustained over time (persistence), how it survives various turbulences and responds to stresses maintaining its structure and functions (stability), how it recovers from adverse changes caused by above (resilience) and how it evolves to maintain its functions at slow onset and predictable stresses (resistance).
There is a set of goals that sums up current development trends, and it is Millennium Development Goals, provided by the UN. It has been agreed that the most important development problem is poverty or in other words “underdevelopment” and that should be internationally dealt with. MDGs provide a framework to act. For each goal there has been set one or several targets, most for 2015. It is an interesting period of time since the talks of post-2015 have already begun.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->describe the scale of problems posed by climate change and development
<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.2. <!--[endif]-->Since the climate change is a challenge per se it is then described already above and one should now move on to see the basic challenges of the development.
One of the main challenges of the development is the difficulty to predict, how various processes will actually affect the particular group, for example, will one or other kind of economic growth really increase the income, and will the income be distributed evenly or maybe exclude the marginalized groups or even destroy traditional livelyhoods? Often due to the „development” local societies, livelihoods, traditions are destroyed, and so is the access to natural resources or degradation and pollution of them.
If one thinks about sustainable development, there are many challenges there in all areas- environmental, economic and social and all combined.
Q- Pause for a moment and try to think of examples of different activities that are environmentally, economically, and socially unsustainable.
One of the most explicit examples of activity that is all environmentally, economically and socially unsustainable is the current consumerism and “designed to dump” production. When people are having shopping as one of their hobbies and buy things they do not actually need and throw them out very soon just to replace with newer model, it is unreasonable consumption. Our economies have been built on consumerism as a model of society. It is environmentally unsustainable as it uses incredible amounts of resources in production and logistics, and then pollutes the environment. It is economically unsustainable for many societies with the largest impact on the developing nations where the unsustainable production takes place- they don’t receive fair wages, health care, education; they are often exposed to harmful substances, long working hours and work conditions that would never be accepted in Western countries; the economies of the consumers are also failing in long term, since there cannot be unlimited economic growth. Such practices are also socially unsustainable as they enlarge the gaps in society between rich and poor, if they replace other hobbies, they are not healthy social activities, and all the above economic effects have a direct impact on social sustainability of people. Failure in one set of conditions often is caused and/ or leads to impacts in other two. Any activity that will in time cause the loss of the favourable conditions of current situation is unsustainable. For example, large exploitation of non-renewable resources will lead to a crisis in all areas that depend on them. Similar effects will have over exploitation of renewable resources if they cannot renew on time.
The last decade has shown that eradicating poverty and reaching MDGs is not an easy task. Also the success of the efforts to achieve MDGs has been a little ambiguous due to rise of China and India as economies that were seen as developing when the goals were set. Percentage data used in MDGs are not reflecting the true numbers yet. There may be less per cent people in poverty, but there are more people in poverty than there were before in actual numbers. It is not really a misrepresentation of mathematical data, but it is a worrying issue. And the overall knowledge is that development has not made enough progress to deal with either MDGs or basic economic, human or sustainable development concepts.
Q- Review the Millennium Development Goals and their targets above and consider whether these are primarily concerned with development goals or processes, and with economic or human development.
MDG 1, Targets 1 and 2 are both economic development goals by previously mentioned categories; however, I think they look more like processes rather than goals.
MDG 2, Target 3 is human development goal.
MDG 3 is human development process, but the Target 4 is more about the goal.
MDG 4, Target 5 - MDG5, Target 6 are human development goals.
MDG 6, Targets 7-8 are human development processes.
MDG 7, Target 9 is economic development process, however
Targets 10-11 are economic development goals.
MDG 8, Target 12 is mixed economic and human development process.
Targets 13-15 are more likely to be economic development processes.
Targets 16-17 are more likely to be human development processes.
Target 18 is again mixed economic and human development process.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->· <!--[endif]-->discuss some of the interactions between climate change and development
<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.3. <!--[endif]-->One of the most important interactions between climate change and development clearly is that climate change affects first and most severely the poor people and vulnerable areas that have low or zero capacity to adapt. That in turn can compromise already achieved goals in development and slow the progress.
Climate change is also one of the most important threats to sustainable development and should be addressed as one of the core issues of the sustainable development.
Act- Look back at the figure in 1.1.2 which sets out IPCC FAR estimates of the likely impacts of climate changes associated with increases in global temperature. For each 'system' listed (water, ecosystems, food, coast, health, singular events) consider and write down the implications for MDGs 1 to 7. Also consider if there are other aspects of development (not included in the MDGs) which will be affected.
MDG1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger- will be undermined by decreasing water availability and increasing drought. Millions of people will be exposed to increasing water stress that is already one of the most difficult problems of MDG1. Increasing species range shifts will affect local and traditional food availability. Negative impacts on small holders, subsistence farmers and fishers, and fall of the productivity of crops in dry and semi-arid areas will further decrease food security and threat by increasing hunger and poverty. Flood and storm damage will affect housing in coastal risk areas. Health problems imposed by climate change will affect ability to work and therefore will shrivel the potential incomes of low income families.
MDG2 Achieve universal primary education- once the first goal is affected there will be fewer resources to dedicate to schooling from the government and children also may become more involved in working and food gathering. Increased damage from floods and storms will affect also school buildings and other infrastructure. Since children are one of the risk groups of climate change health impacts, the attendance may fall and lower the educational progress.
MDG3 Promote gender equality and empower women- women currently are more vulnerable to the climate change impacts since they create the largest part of the poor, and in many places where they are the ones to take care of homes, farming and family, their empowerment may decrease. If they have to take care of increasingly sick children, they cannot work and that creates larger gap between genders too.
MDG4 Reduce child mortality- will become difficult in situation where increased morbidity and mortality from heatwaves, floods and droughts are affecting a nation. If the mothers are suffering from increasing malnutrition, diarrhoeal, cardio-respiratory and infectious diseases, that also increases risk of child mortality. So does the water stress. Loss of infrastructure by extreme weather events will also affect the morbidity and mortality of all. MDG5 Improve maternal health- same problems that affect child mortality are present to maternal health. Additionally, if a woman must work harder in water and food stressed environment, it decreases her maternal health and the foetus. If the child mortality increases due to above reasons, women will most likely have more pregnancies to have children and in certain numbers that will deteriorate maternal health too. Women and children are also the most vulnerable to the storms, cyclones, floods and other extreme weather events.
MDG6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases- IPCC predicts that there will be changed distribution of some disease vectors. Infectious diseases may spread more easily in warmer climate. Malnutrition and lack of clean water lowers immunity and carries increasing risk of getting ill.
MDG7 Ensure environmental sustainability- climate change itself is a threat to environmental sustainability and may lead the planet to a tipping point and then there is no talk about environmental sustainability. As for the nearer future and less catastrophic scenarios, every degree of temperature rise will severely affect all ecosystems. Ones of the first most affected will be corals bleaching and amphibian extinction. Increasing species range shifts and wildfire risk is also increasing and affecting environmental sustainability. Also increased damage from floods and storms in coastal areas cannot be regarded as sustainable. Climate change also alters the national resources – water, energy and vegetation, and rapid reduction of any of those is not environmentally sustainable (like loss of water in mountain glacier fed rivers or drying lakes in Africa, etc.)
Other aspect of development that is not covered in MDGs is security. Even though development does not usually talk about other than basic economic and social security like food, shelter, water, health, rights, I believe the military issues might become more apparent in case of more severe climate change impacts. Poverty is often accompanied with civil force combat and military actions. When there is reduction in important resources, development might be put to a backseat by “security measures” and competition to rule over those resources and population by force.
It is difficult to predict the range of how various climate change impacts like global warming, sea level rise, water resource scarcity and others will affect spatially and temporally different areas and their climate systems and what exact effects will that have on human social and economic development in particular areas. The various data can lead to a risk that policy makers, investors and aid agencies can choose the less harmful scenarios where they should take into the account the most serious and severely affecting scenarios for the developing areas. One should take into account the risk of both underestimating and overestimating such impacts. Uncertainty is a part of the science itself, but when it comes to those writing adaptation strategies and development agendas, they should secure the potential risks on human basic needs- food, water, shelter, health, security and income to live on that all will be affected by rising temperature, sea level and extreme weather events even in present or near future, and these risks are predicted to increase with time.
Act- Given the uncertainties about climate change and its impacts, and the very nature of climate change in increasing weather variability, it is immensely difficult to quantify historical, current, or future human impacts of climate change. The Economist (2009) comments that 'the trend looks plausible, but there seems little basis for the exact numbers' regarding the Global Humanitarian Forum estimate that 40% of increased weather-related disasters can be attributed to climate change. Most statements in the figure in 1.3.2 are either vague or illustrative. What is the value of information like this, and what are its dangers? You might like to post your comment on this on the online learning environment for discussion, and if you are interested you could also read more of the Global Humanitarian Forum report (2009) Human Impact Report: Climate Change - The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis.
It is now scientifically proven and recognized that the climate change we are experiencing now is human caused. While uncertainty is a “part of the game” in science, vague data or data that are appropriately chosen to show only one side of the coin is undermining the seriousness of the problem. The dangers of illustrative or vague data are at both ends. Those who lack political will and those wishing to continue business as usual will hold on to the low impact data, use terminology stating that some modelled future scenarios are in “low confidence” category to happen, and by that try to create a loop to justify their emissions, pollution etc. Extremists on their part will use the worst possible scenarios and choose appropriate data and while sometimes such are great to make an emotional impact on masses to change their behaviour, they also can seem too extreme and ordinary people will discredit them or perceive them as too scary to do something about it.
Climate change being globally recognized as a problem does not offer a solution within it yet. What matters is how we proceed with mitigation and adaptation. Underestimating the problem will worsen the situation in future and will put more weight on adaptation later. Overestimating climate change impacts and acting accordingly might only benefit the future situation in terms of sustainable environment; however, it might put a strain on development issues to redistribute resources towards mitigation and adaptation issues.
I think IPCC with its role to assess the sources and their reports and findings is working towards the solution of the obscurity to provide with information which data are reliable and giving the degree of confidence in particular predictions being correct. Even though when one reads a projected event and then sees it’s marked “medium confidence”, one might lose the feeling of importance of such data and in one’s mind bin it as irrelevant in argument about climate change. So the value of the information is still dependent on the reader’s educational and behavioural background.
Out of the academic context largely such educational background relies on media coverage. While media likes to exploit screaming sensational data, people who will deal with climate change issues professionally or voluntarily usually choose more subtle and professional media approach like The Economist that I myself particularly enjoyed in how it displayed both the GHF report and The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis- without undermining the climate change issues.