MIDLOTHIAN, Virginia — A new report from the United Nations states that climate change has the possibility of being ‘the single biggest hindrance’ to development goals like getting rid of poverty, providing universal education, expanding the life expectancy and preventing diseases.
The report, titled “Sustaining human progress: reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience,” noted that climate change and natural disasters were one of six major threats to human development. The other five were economic instability, inequality, food insecurity, conflict and health.
The goal of the report was to see the degree to which people experience a decrease in their living conditions thanks to external threats and how to change that. It noted that certain factors, like socio-economic status and geographical location, were used in determining how vulnerable someone really was.
“Traditionally, people talk about vulnerability in relation to specific risks such as disasters or violence,” said Khalid Malik, the lead author of the report. “But what we tried to do in this report was to dig a little deeper and see what the underlying drivers of vulnerability are.”
In the report, several policies and reforms were suggested in order to reduce vulnerability and allow people to build a safety net in the event of trying times. Some of the ideas suggested included embracing the idea that all individuals are equal and worthy of the same protection, making sure economic policies are improving the lives of the citizens and improving social norms.
Despite providing several ideas, the report centered on universalism, the belief that all humans are equal and that they deserve the same support, protection and respect; it further noted that governments could help by providing aid through education, health care and making sure that the water supply and sanitation are kept up to date.
According to Malik, universalism has been a central concern since the Human Development Index was created in 1990.
“The poor suffer the most when austerity budgets cut down on social expenditures, because the rich can protect themselves. But if one accepts universality principles, it should be the other way around, where special attention is paid to the disadvantaged,” said Malik.
The report also argued that the idea that only wealthy countries could afford to provide social programs was false, as countries like Sweden and Denmark were providing programs to their citizens during times when their GDP was lower than what it is today. The report also argued that climate stability was ‘essential’ to ensuring the security and resilience of the world’s citizens.
The report stated that “under provisioning of climate stability—a global public good—and the manifestation of vulnerability to extreme weather and food crises have been a recurring threat in different parts of the world.” It also noted that getting rid of poverty was another way to reduce the effect of climate change on the people.
“This presents a twofold challenge,” said Malik, “where developed countries have to bring down their pressure on the ecosystem very sharply, and developing countries have to maintain the low levels of ecological footprint as they grow.”
Malik went on to state that the report made it clear that it was actually more cost effective to develop new ways of conservation and keeping the developmental footprint of countries small and that the private sector had to be part of the solution in order for it to work.
– Monica Newell