BY ALBERTO D. PEREZ — Granma International staff writer —
THE certain and immediate danger to the planet and the human species posed by global warming to the atmosphere is the central issue of the Human Development Report (HDR) 2007/2008, issued by the United Nations Development Programme, titled "Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world."
The report was presented in Cuba in the National Aquarium’s theater by Susan McDade, UNPD permanent representative in Cuba, along with deputy ministers Jose Antonio Díaz Duque and América Santos, of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment (CITMA), and Juan Manuel Presa, of the Ministry of Basic Industry (MINBAS).
The occasion was a meeting of scientific, productive, educational and investigative institutions in Cuba to review the progress of the National Science and Technology Program and the impact of global warming on the island.
The 386-page 2007/2008 report is a compilation by the UN agency of information and actions, providing thorough documentation for the idea that a very dangerous climate change is underway, posing threats and creating vulnerability in an unequal world. The report states that given this situation, action must be taken to reduce pollution from major sources and to implement strategies of mitigation and adaptation, together with protective measures for the weakest countries.
In presenting the report, McDade gave a detailed explanation of these risks and of measures that should be taken by all countries, although the biggest burden falls, naturally, on those that most contribute to global warming. (For more information, see www.hdr.undp.org.)
She gave an illustrative example of human actions that harm the environment. "Seventy-three thousand square kilometers of forest, an area equivalent to the size of Chile, was cut down in 2006, significantly diminishing the planet’s ability to reabsorb the CO2 that contributes to global warming," she said.
The hefty report calls for solidarity with the poorest countries, which carry the least amount of responsibility for the progressive poisoning of our planet. The alternative would be a devastating natural and human disaster, McDade affirmed.
One aspect of the UNDP’s annual reports on human development, issued since 1990, is the categorizing of countries according to their human development index, which is calculated based on three essential aspects: longer and healthier living, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. These include life expectancy at birth, the literacy rate among adults and the gross combined rate of enrollment in primary, secondary and higher education, as well as the gross domestic product.
Cuba is one of the countries with the highest human development index in the world, in 51st place among 177 nations, far ahead of many other developing countries in the Americas and in the world.
Coinciding with the report’s presentation in Cuba, news reports announced that an enormous block of ice broke off the frozen continent of Antarctica due to higher temperatures. This is the largest such event known to occur on that ancient frozen platform, and is a warning about the catastrophic consequences that would result from the melting of the polar icecaps and the subsequent rise in sea levels caused by global warming.
José Antonio Díaz Duque, deputy minister of CITMA, expressed thanks for the opportune publication of this report by the UNDP and noted that international commitments have been very weak given the seriousness of the problem; at the same time, he noted, the immense majority of consumption systems are absolutely unsustainable.
Cuba is a pioneer in the scientific development of research into climate change, the high-ranking official affirmed. He reported that measures for adaptation and mitigation are now underway on the island.
Other efforts underway include reforestation. In 1959, only 14% of the national land area was covered with forests, Díaz Duque said. Now, 50 years later, trees now cover one-fourth —equal to more than 25%— of Cuba’s territory, and this important effort is ongoing.
In concluding the event, Juan Manuel Presa, deputy minister of MINBAS, gave a general summary of actions being taken by Cuba to optimize and reduce its energy production and consumption, and to diversify its power sources, especially those of renewable energy.
Presa gave a detailed account of actions that fall under Cuba’s "energy revolution" programs, with the generalized replacement of high-consumption equipment; the reorganization and improvement of traditional power generation and distribution networks; the introduction of other generating sources, and the extension of the benefits of alternative electricity and access to modern sources of information and entertainment in mountainous and remote areas.
All of this has not only reduced Cuba’s already small contribution to global
warming, but also signifies an important benefit for the human development of
the Cuban population.
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