The poor are suffering and will suffer even more with the advance of
climate change because they are at greatest risk of human development
reversals, said the Global Human Development Report 2007/ 2008,
released February 13 at the Movenpick Hotel. The HDR 2007/2008,
entitled Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World,
was launched by the United Nations Development Programme in Yemen in
cooperation with the Ministry of Planning and International
Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today. Recent events have emphatically demonstrated a growing vulnerability to this phenomenon. “Confronted with a problem as daunting as this, resigned pessimism might seem a justified response,” said Selva Ramachandran, UNDP Yemen Resident Representative at the launch of the HDR 2007/2008. “However, resigned pessimism is a luxury that the world’s poor and future generations cannot afford, and there is an alternative. In short, climate change has become a priority!”
The report provides a stark account of the threat posed by global warming. It argues that the world is drifting towards a “tipping point” that could lock the poorest countries and their neediest citizens in a downward spiral, leaving hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity, ecological threats and a loss of livelihoods. “Ultimately, climate change is a threat to humanity as a whole. But it is the poor, a constituency with no responsibility for the ecological debt we are running up, who face the immediate and most severe human costs,” said UNDP administrator, Kemal Dervis.
As a result of past emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs), the world is now on course for future climate change and has less than a decade to avoid dangerous alterations to the climate that could bring unprecedented human development reversals. “We are issuing a call to action, not providing a counsel of despair,” said lead author, Kevin Watkins. “Working together with resolve, we can win the battle against climate change. Allowing the window of opportunity to close would represent a moral and political failure without precedent in human history.”
If that window is missed, temperature rises above two degrees Celsius could see an extra 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa go hungry, new and more frequent epidemics of mosquito-born diseases like Rift Valley Fever and malaria, and agricultural losses of up to US$29 billion by 2060 in the region, a figure higher than the total bilateral aid received by sub-Saharan Africa in 2005. The report notes that if each poor person on the planet had the same energy-rich lifestyle as an American or Canadian, nine planets would be needed to safely cope with the pollution. In fact, the US state of Texas, with 23 million residents, emits more CO2 than all of the 720 million residents of sub-Saharan Africa put together, according to the report.
Faced with these stark differences, the authors note that critical global emission cuts should not undermine efforts to get basic energy services to the poor. The world’s richest countries have a historic responsibility to take the lead in balancing the carbon budget by cutting emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, says the report, in addition to supporting $86 billion in annual global investment in a substantial international effort to protect the world’s poor.
Current evidence points to a direct link between climate change and increased risk of climate disasters like floods and droughts, and the overwhelming majority of people affected live in developing countries. The report’s authors note that on average, between 2000 and 2004, one in 19 people living in the developing world was affected by a climate disaster each year, compared to one person in 1,500 for OECD countries. OECD is the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, with 25 out of 30 member countries being described as “high-income” by the World Bank.
Focusing on the 2.6 billion people surviving on less than US$2 a day, the report authors warn forces unleashed by global warming could stall and then reverse progress that has been built up over generations. The breakdown of agricultural systems as a result of increased exposure to drought, rising temperatures and more erratic rainfall could leave up to 600 million more people facing malnutrition; an additional 1.8 billion people facing water stress by 2080; displacement through flooding and tropical storm activity of up to 332 million people in coastal and low-lying areas; and emerging health risks, with up to an additional 400 million people facing the risk of malaria.
In some countries, increased frequency of droughts means that women are walking greater distances to fetch water, often ranging from 10 to 15 kilometers a day, according to the report. Along with posing greater personal security risks for women, it also keeps young people, especially girls, out of schools and imposes an immense physical burden - a plastic container filled with 20 liters of water weighs around 20 kilograms.
The report calls on developed countries to support a new global investment of at least $86 billion annually, or 0.2 percent of the OECD countries’ combined gross domestic product (GDP), in adaptation efforts to climate-proof infrastructure and build the resilience of the poor to the effects of climate change.
Dr. Abdul-Karim al-Arhabi, Deputy-Prime Minster of Yemen for Economic Affairs and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, confirmed that Yemen has moved forward to achieve good values in the human development index (HDI) and to improve both regionally and internationally. “Environment issues receive national and international attention since they are related to continuing development issues. More than 100 public and private institutions have been established to represent Yemen’s attention to the environment,” he said.
The Minister of Water and Environment, Dr. Abdul-Rahman al-Eryani, warns of climate change and calls upon developed countries to reduce emissions. He also urges people to save water, protect soil, support farmers and use the best technological means to reduce emissions. Dr. al-Eryani predicted that Yemen will be one of the world’s countries which will be most negatively affected by climate change.
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