To Live With Less So That Others Can Continue Living
GENEVA – The impacts
of climate change are now nowhere more visible than on the lives of
billions of poor farmers around the world. In the last 50 years the
world population has more than doubled -- from 3 billion in 1959 to 6.7
billion in 2009.
According to the
International Labour Organization, the economically active population in
the world grew from 1.89 billion in 1980 to 3.21 billion in 2009. A
large majority of this increase has occurred in the developing
While the economically
active population in the more developed regions grew from 519 millions
in 1980 to 623 million in 2009, the corresponding increase in the less
developed regions of Africa, Asia (excluding Japan), Latin America and
the Caribbean plus Melanisia, Micronesia and Polynesia was much larger,
from 1.38 billion in 1980 to 2.59 billion in 2009. A large majority of
the economically active population in the less developed regions is
engaged in subsistence agriculture.
Although the production of
major cereals (rice, wheat and maize) increased from 643 million tons in
1961 to 2.06 billion tons in 2007, the availability of food for the
growing population in the world is quite uneven.
According to FAO, there are
1.02 billion undernourished people in the world today, 75 percent of
whom are to be found in rural areas where the primary source of
livelihood is the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. One
person out of six in the world does not get enough food to be healthy
and lead an active life.
Hunger and malnutrition are
in fact the number one risk to the health worldwide -- greater than
AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Poverty and overexploitation of
the environment rank amongst the major causes for hunger. Almost half
the world -- over three billion people -- lives on less than $2.50 a
day. Nearly 1.8 billion people in the world who have access to a water
source within 1 kilometre, but not in their house or yard, consume
around 20 litres per day. In comparison, water use in the USA is around
600 litres per day.
According to FAO, 65 percent
of the world's hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and
Ethiopia. Climate change is already impacting overall developing efforts
in these countries, particularly in the agriculture, forestry and
Irregular and unpredictable
rainfall patterns; increasing frequency of heavy rainfall; increased
incidence of storms and prolonged droughts are impacting food
production. While the nature of the impacts is location specific, the
adaptive capacity of people and ecosystems determine the extent of
damage that is caused.
The situation is dire in
many developing regions of the world but most notably in Africa. Per
capita grain production in Africa is down 12 percent since 1981 and down
22 percent since 1967. Some 20 years ago, Africa produced food equal to
what it consumed; today it produces only 80 percent of what it consumes.
What needs to be done to
address the problem?
a) Promote more actively
adaptation to climate change in developing countries
b) Change the behavioural
patterns to learn to live with less so that others can continue living
PROMOTING MORE ACTIVELY
ADAPTATION IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
All developing countries
need to mainstream their efforts for adaptation to climate change into
their development planning through emphasis on the following aspects:
- More systematic efforts in
the acquisition of information on extreme events and their impacts on
agriculture to enable the development of coping strategies to extreme
events in agriculture.
- Assisting farmers in
coping with current climatic risks, especially through risk transfer
mechanisms such as index-based weather risk insurance.
- Advancing knowledge base
for adaptation at the national level for the principal crops and
cropping systems. According to IPCC (2007), agriculture has the
technical potential to mitigate between 1.5-1.6 GtC eqv/yr (5.5 – 6 Gt
of CO2 equivalent/yr) mainly through soil carbon sequestration in
developing countries. Systematic efforts at establishing knowledge bases
at the national level and applications based on the knowledge base could
help advance improved carbon sequestration efforts.
- Assisting in the
intensification of food production systems. Food needs of the growing
populations could be met only through intensifying agricultural
production systems through greater research and extension efforts.
- Enabling institutions and
policy support are essential to assist the adaptation efforts to climate
change. Farmers in the developing countries need policy support to
ensure that they adopt appropriate soil and water management strategies
to conserve natural resources and increase and sustain farm
partnerships and capacity enhancement to help promote synergies and
enable the adoption of new techniques to enhance crop productivity.
According to World Bank
(2010), primary energy use (before transformation to other end-use
fuels) in kilograms of oil equivalent, per capita in the world increased
from 1,338 kg in 1971 to 1,819 kg in 2007. In poorer countries such as
Bangladesh, per capita energy use was only 80 kg in 1971 and it
increased to 163 kg in 2007. In contrast, in the United States, energy
use per capita was about 5 times more than global average and it
increased from 7,645 kg in 1971 to 7,766 kg in 2007.
The weighted average oil
consumption at the global level in 2007 was 399,463 bbl/day, with poorer
countries such as Bangladesh at 89,940 bbl/day and the United States at
20,680,000 bbl/day. Clearly, the impacts of CO2 emissions related to
such levels of oil consumption in more developed countries are
translated into higher average temperatures in the developing countries
in the semi-arid and arid regions.
According to the World
Energy Council (WEC, 2009), the energy policy must be integrated over
time, and regionally and globally for some issues such as regional
security and climate change. WEC advocates global cooperation between
higher and lower income countries and emphasizes that public acceptance
of energy policy is essential.
In this connection, the
announcement by the United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
recently in car-dependent America, that bicycle use and walking should
be given the same importance as motorised transport in state and local
projects. This is a laudable initiative and needs to emulated even in
developing countries like China and India with average oil consumption
of 7,578,000 bbl/day and 2,722,000 bbl/day.
Clearly we all need to learn
to live with less so that others can continue living.
is the Director of the Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch in the
World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This is a slightly abridged
version of his presentation in the Plenary Session on 'Adaptation and
Poverty Reduction: Combined forces or a fight against the current?' at
the third Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn on June 23,
2010 IDN-InDepthNews |
Analysis That Matters