By Dalya Dajani
AMMAN - Global human development experts on Sunday said the world was heading towards an imminent humanitarian crisis and political and social security would be compromised if it did not do more to address the impact of global warming.
Painting a troubling picture of the future of the world as a result of increased atmospheric pollution, the 2007/2008 UNDP Human Development Report (HDR), launched in the capital yesterday, cited climate change as the defining human development challenge of the 21st century.
Development experts and environmentalists said a grave and irreversible situation has caught up, with millions already bearing the brunt of floods, droughts and storms that lead to mass migration.
The report noted that countries working hard to improve the livelihoods of their populations are expected to face bigger economic and humanitarian crises unless concrete steps are taken to curb the impact of global warming.
Among the threats forecast were growing water shortages, further damage to agriculture-dependent economies, major population displacement and flood damage to coastal cities and towns as early as 2020.
Entitled, “Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World”, the report urges developed countries to take concrete steps to curb that impact, notably by reducing their share of greenhouse gas emissions, and to help less, developed countries adapt to the changing climate.
HRH Princess Basma, Honorary UNDP Human Development Ambassador, yesterday illustrated the threats of climate change on global populations, particularly vulnerable communities which are forced to adapt to difficult conditions to meet their basic needs for food, water and sustainable livelihoods.
“The title of the 2007 report… reminds us that climate change is not just about science - it’s about people. And it’s the poor… who are already paying the heaviest price for climate change. The problems faced by the poor today, the rest of the world will face tomorrow,” she said.
The Princess cited examples of mass migration among poor communities in search of resources, highlighting the plight of women and girls who have to travel to remote areas by foot to secure their daily water needs.
She said all countries shared an ethical commitment to alleviate the impact of global warming on such populations through national strategies and practical plans.
Citing the Millennium Development Goal that calls for international cooperation in addressing human development, Princess Basma said developed nations, especially those at the source of the problem, should lead the way.
Skewed disaster risk
While the impact of climate change threatens all, the report paints a worrying picture among the poor and disadvantaged. Of the 262 million people impacted by climate change between 2000-2004, around 90 per cent were from developing countries, with 79 out of every 1,500 people affected in developing countries compared to only 1 in every 1,500 in developed countries.
Experts warn that up to 400 million individuals will be exposed to malaria from cyclones by 2020, while between 75-250 million people will face water stress by that year. Also, rain-fed agriculture will be reduced by 50 per cent unless steps are taken to reverse or mitigate the situation.
According to the report, the impact of climate change has already caught up over the recent decades with carbon dioxide emissions exceeding accepted rates. It noted that the carbon dioxide budget was poised for early expiry by 2032, which requires rapid adjustment by countries.
The report said countries should work towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050.
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Jordan Luc Stevens said countries were not blind to global warming, but many lacked the collective drive to push forward with their targets and policies.
According to the UN official, temperatures today are higher than anytime during the last three million years and serious steps are required to counteract their impact on all populations, particularly 2.6 billion of the poorest people on the planet.
As one of the 10 most water-poor nations in the world, Jordan faces a challenging path in addressing the impact of global warming on the future security of its population.
The Kingdom is already stressed by decreasing rainfall, and if water sources continue to decline, water availability in 2020 will be approximately 140 cubic metres per person per year (Today, the average world per capita water availability is 7,000 cubic metres per year). Furthermore, the decline in water sources in the Jordan River Basin, two-thirds of which is used for irrigation, currently results in an annual water deficit of approximately 85 million cubic meters per year.
Minister of Environment Khalid Irani yesterday spoke of the efforts undertaken in the country to address the impact of climate change through transfer technologies that include reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Some of these projects include the methane project in Ruseifa that will use 190,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide gas and the Aqaba Thermal Power Station project, which will run on natural gas. The project is expected to reduce 1.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
A recent study identifying sources and absorption of greenhouse gas emissions in the Kingdom indicated that the energy sector produces about 13.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 1.4 million tonnes of which are absorbed by forests. It also showed that garbage dumps emit some 400,000 tonnes of methane, while the agriculture sector and fertiliser industry emit 40,000 tonnes of nitrous oxide. In addition, the transportation sector is responsible for producing 2.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, while the domestic sector emits 1.2 million tonnes.
Irani said a new strategy designed to bring in to effect a qualitative shift to produce clean energy was under way.
In her address at the launch, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Suhair Al-Ali highlighted the threats of climate change on poverty alleviation and the Millennium Development Goals.
Al-Ali said greater global mobilisation was needed, particularly national ownership of programmes designed to curb the impact of global warming.
She also noted efforts of the ministries of labour and environment and the Greater Amman Municipality to implement programmes to address climate change and water shortage.
The HDR placed Jordan’s human development rank at 86 among 177 countries, the “middle” category, for the second consecutive year.
The Kingdom, however, made progress in the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures achievements in life expectancy and adult literacy per capita.
According to the HDI, which measures the quality of life in each country, Jordan progressed from 0.760 last year to 0.773 this year.
In the Human Poverty Index, the Kingdom ranked 11th among 108 countries, compared to 11th among 102 countries in the 2006 report.
It also ranked 80th among 157 countries in Gender Development Index (GDI), as opposed to 69 among 136 countries last year. The drop in rank was due to the entry of more countries in the GDI data this year, because its GDI value, progressed from 0.747 last year to 0.760 this year.
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