Monday, 9 April 2012

Alex Stubbings: Climate Change in Developing Countries

Alex Stubbings, the GfGD Blog's Climate Change Correspondent, has been writing a series of posts introducing our readers to some of the key issues within the important field of climate change and its relationship to development. He has posted about Earth's changing climate, and what is driving climatic change today - his next post looks at climate change in developing countries...


Climate Change (3) - Climate Change in Developing Countries

Human modification of the global climate system will, unfortunately, adversely and most severely impact those people in developing countries. Why is this so? Simply put developing countries are exposed to a number of human and natural risks; climate change just happens to be one of these risks. Therefore we can define, and speak of climate change as a risk amplifier.

The most significant aspect of climate change for developing countries is that it has the potential to impact upon development investments, projects and hinder the development process. As such climate change will negatively impact the aspirations and long-term objectives of developing countries, namely to grow, develop and more importantly, lift their people by themselves out of long-term abstract poverty. In fact, poverty, and those who occupy “absolute” and “hardcore” poverty levels in developing countries, whether middle-income or Least Developed Countries, are likely to be hit the hardest by changes, even slight changes, in the mean of climate.

In an effort to combat any foreseeable climate change the governments of the world came together in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, an outcome of which was the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or: UNFCCC, FCCC and the Convention. The Convention is an important institution for members of the United Nations. Countries who signed up to it acknowledge its core principle, and overriding reason for existence,

“...To prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system and to limit any future temperature rise to 2 degrees celcius above pre-industrial.”

Extract from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Article 2.A brief summary can be found here. (Pre-industrial being taken as before 1750 when pCO2 emissions were in-line with previous inter-stadial limits of 280ppm)

This one single paragraph is important for all of our species, but in particular for those developing countries that comprise the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). This group is the most at risk, or vulnerable, to the effects of an enhanced greenhouse effect, which is being forced by the economic activities of humans.

Climate change is a significant issue for LDCs as they are characterised by lacking in various capacities including financially. Issues that are exacerbated by climate change include all of the thematic topics on GfGD’s web site, and especially: water and sanitation, health, education, gender issues, agriculture and geo-hazards. Climate change could amplify these, and other natural hazards, altering the effects of their impacts, recurrence times and severity.

Furthermore, we know from archaeological studies and Holocene environmental change that societies that are highly dependent, like most of the LDCs, upon natural resources, for example: fish, forestry, agriculture and so forth, are more likely to be adversely affected, see here and here. Compare natural resource economies to post-industrial economies like: service sectors, creative industries and knowledge economies. These, it can be said, are more resilient, to a degree, than those based solely around natural resource sectors.

However, developing countries, and drawing on my own experience from Bangladesh, are on the front lines of climate change. These places will be impacted first, such as Bangladesh and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). These countries are trying to take-charge of their own future by challenging leading paradigms from being victims to agents of change, see here. Interestingly, climate change manifests itself in developing countries first, least responsible for the problem, yet they will have to adapt first as well. So as geoscientists if we want to know what the cutting-edge in climate change adaptation, or for that matter the early signs of climate change impacts, we have to look to what is being designed, implemented and experienced within LDCs and other developing countries.

Small States - Including many developing nations vulnerable to changes in the Earth's climate