Introduction to the importance of environmental sustainability
Climate change is the most urgent issue affecting the whole planet right now. It has been described as the defining human development issue of our generation.
Climate change-related hazards are ongoing and increasing. They pose a serious threat to the achievement of the MDGs as they have the potential to reverse years of development gains. Tackling the climate is a need for justice: developing countries have 98% of the seriously affected and 99% of all deaths from weather-related disasters, along with over 90% of the total economic losses, while the 50 Least Developed Countries contribute less than 1% of global carbon emissions.
Climate change and global poverty must be combated simultaneously. 75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and largely depend on natural resources for their livelihoods and income. They suffer the most from natural disasters due to poor infrastructure and systems that are not equipped to deal with the drastic impact of major catastrophes such as the 2004 tsunami or Haiti earthquake.
Projected impacts from climate change include the following:
Decline in agricultural productivity: The areas suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and the yield potential of food staples are all projected to decline. Some African countries could see agricultural yields decrease by 50% by 2050 and crop net revenues could fall by as much as 90% by 2100.
Increased water stress: Changing climate patterns will have important implications for water availability in Africa. By 2020, an additional 75-250 million people in Africa are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.
Rising sea levels: Across the globe, sea levels could rise rapidly with accelerated ice sheet disintegration. In Africa, highly productive ecosystems, which form the basis for important economic activities such as tourism and fisheries, are located in coastal zones. In total, 70 million people and 30% of the Africa's coastal infrastructure could face the risk of coastal flooding by 2080 because of rising sea levels.
Risks to human health: Climate change will affect human health through variables such as changes in temperature, exposure to natural disasters, access to food and air quality. Previously malaria-free highland areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi could experience modest incursions of malaria by the 2050s, with conditions for transmission becoming highly suitable by the 2080s. In total, an additional 260-320 million people worldwide could be living in malaria-infested areas by 2080.
Threats to ecosystems and biodiversity: Changes induced by climate change are likely to result in species range shifts and changes in tree productivity, adding further stress to forest ecosystems. Studies predict that 25-40% of mammal species such as zebra could become endangered or extinct by 2080.
Global efforts are key to ensure environmental sustainability. Industrialized countries are historically responsible for the bulk of green house gas emissions. However, meaningful reductions in emissions today can only be achieved through an approach that includes emerging markets. In addition, developing regions like sub-Saharan Africa, must be enabled to embark on a low carbon growth path as they continue to grow their economic base and energy supply and demand. Industrialized countries have an obligation to support Africa and other regions in this endeavor. Moreover, it is in their interest to do so as climate change impacts will be felt throughout the world. Developing and emerging countries have signaled they would agree to a global climate deal if they are supported. In addition, there are untapped opportunities for partnering with sub-Saharan Africa to stem further declines. Africa's vast rainforests and natural resources could be invested in through re-forestation and agro-forestry programs to provide sustainable livelihoods and carbon storage/sequestration.
by Jared Levy, Austin Peck VOICE OVER RECORDING Margarita Mix, Hollywood VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO: Cody Irizarry, Jane Rosenthal, Nancy Lefkowitz