Daily News, Egypt
CAIRO: The United Nations launched its Human Development Report 2007/08 yesterday in Brasilia, Brazil.
The report focuses on the human impact on climate change, how human beings can adapt to it, and how we can prevent further changes in the future.At the UN headquarters in Cairo, one of the report’s authors, Papa Seck, gave Daily News Egypt a presentation explaining the main points of the report. At present — according to current scientific estimates — human beings emit twice the level of greenhouse gases that can be absorbed by the earth. These gases, primarily carbon dioxide, warm the earth, changing weather patterns and melting ice sheets in areas like Greenland and Antarctica. These climatic changes lead to natural disasters such as droughts and flooding, and consequently, death, famine and disease.The earth has warmed irreversibly by almost one degree Celsius since the industrial revolution, and the effects have already been felt with increasingly erratic weather patterns in many parts of the world like South East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. One of the main aims of the report, says Seck, is to identify ways of adapting to these irreversible changes.Richer countries are better prepared in this respect, with stronger infrastructures and well-prepared disaster response units. It is the poor who are set to bear the brunt.Seck pointed out that although the United States was more vulnerable to extreme weather risks than Bangladesh, the resulting death toll and physical devastation in Bangladesh resulting from storms and flooding was far greater.In developed countries, only one in 1,500 is affected by extreme weather, compared with one in 19 in developing countries.Another main aim of the report is to find ways to prevent the earth’s temperature increase rising above two degrees, to a level it refers to as “catastrophic.” In Egypt for instance, a sea level rise of one meter will lead to significant flooding in the south of the country, leaving — by conservative estimates — up to six million people homeless, and severely damaging agricultural production.The Nile delta too would suffer significant flooding and an estimated $35 billion worth of damage. Water-born diseases like malaria would affect both areas.In the region as a whole, flooding of fresh water sources would affect drinking water supplies, exacerbating water insecurity.To prevent outcomes such as these, Seck says that the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050 — what he says is a widely accepted target among experts.As developed countries are currently responsible for 70 percent of all greenhouse emissions, they must cut their emissions by 50 percent, while developing countries must cut theirs by 20 percent.To do this, the report recommends introducing a carbon taxation system and carbon budgets to dissuade companies from inefficient use of energy, and encourage them to look into cleaner and sustainable sources of energy.“We need to develop a sustainable pathway,” says Seck.The report’s targets take into account the earth’s growing population, which is expected to reach eight billion by 2050, as well as the rapidly growing energy demands of large countries like China and India.The technology, sustainable energy practices and clean energy resources that enable such countries to develop while avoiding the high emission levels are already available, says Seck.“Richer countries have a responsibility to share what they have learned with developing countries. This means sharing technology that has been developed, and helping to introduce clean fuels like ethanol and ways of pumping CO2 underground.”This responsibility, and the responsibility to slow climate change, is to everyone on the planet, not just poorer countries, says head of the UN Development Program Kemal Dervis.“While we live in a world where people are still separated by vast gaps in wealth and opportunity and national borders, our destinies are inextricably tied to each other by the one thing we all share in common: Planet Earth.”
Return to the list <<<<<