›April 30, 2012 // By Stuart Kent“After 20 years of peacebuilding experimentation, one of the good signs is that the countries receiving this [peacebuilding] attention…more and more are shaping the process,” said Professor Richard Matthew, director of the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs at the University of California, Irvine.
Peacebuilding is shifting, he said, from internationals going in with pre-existing conceptions of “what you need for stability and development, what will make you attractive to investors, what will make your people secure,” to instead sitting down and talking with stakeholders about “what types of capacity do you need, and how can we support you in acquiring those.”
Along with the shift towards more responsive peacebuilding has come an elevated interested in the environment and natural resources. For people living in the peacebuilding countries themselves, “there was never any doubt that water and forest and access to minerals and so on were critical to their future,” said Matthew, but Western and Northern countries often thought of it as a “second tier issue that you might get to once people were safe, and the government was functioning, and the economy was up and running again.”
Matthew co-authored the 2009 UNEP report, From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment, which examined environmental factors all along the conflict continuum – from inception to peacebuilding. Successful peacebuilding, the report argues, requires that “environmental drivers are managed, that tensions are defused, and that natural assets are used sustainably to support stability and development in the long term.”
›This summer, world leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the 20th anniversary of the first UN Earth Summit to hammer out a new set of agreements on what sustainable development means and, more importantly, how both rich and developing nations can get there before it’s too late. However, for the scores of women who will be attending (and just importantly for those who aren’t), there are glaring omissions: reproductive health, gender equality, and girls education are nowhere to be found on the Rio+20 agenda.
Women offer many of the most promising levers for the transformation to sustainable development. My experience with the Global Fund for Women tells me that women are full of creative and strategic solutions to the problems facing their communities around the world. Their voices must be included in critical decisions affecting our world. And the fact is, sustainable development isn’t sustainable if it doesn’t include empowering women to plan their families, educate themselves, and their children, and have a voice in government at all levels. Rio+20 must have human rights – and women’s rights – at its core. Earth summit planners haven’t yet done that, but women can make it happen.
Women are 51 percent of the world’s population, yet own only one percent of its assets, are two-thirds of the world’s workers but earn a mere 10 percent of wages. Rio+20 must not become another forum in which women’s issues are not heard. Instead, the summit must demonstrate that women’s voices are integral to all development. Environmental sustainability simply can’t happen without women’s inclusion.
For example, in West Africa, women make up 70 percent of workers in agriculture. In Burkina Faso, deforestation, water scarcity, and soil erosion show us that climate change is already impacting women farmers. Women tend to “sacrifice themselves” in order to care for their families – feeding themselves last. And women are most likely to suffer and die in environmental disasters – particularly in the Asian countries most at risk from climate change.
So how do we support women while supporting the environment that sustains us all?
Simply meeting women’s needs for family planning is one inexpensive and powerful development strategy with a host of environmental benefits. Over 200 million women around the world want the ability to choose the spacing and number of children but don’t have access to, or accurate information about, basic contraceptives like condoms, pills, and IUDs. One-hundred and seventy-nine nations already agree that meeting this need is a top priority, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) reflect a goal of universal access to family planning as well.
Satisfying this demand would dramatically reduce maternal and child mortality and enhance human rights. What’s more, two recent studies show that a reduction of 8 to 15 percent of essential carbon emissions can be obtained by meeting women’s needs for family planning. This reduction would be equivalent to stopping all deforestation or increasing the world’s use of wind power fortyfold.
The Earth Summit presents a major opportunity to ensure that women’s needs and rights are given top priority in plans for sustainable development. In a time of multiple, interlinked human and environmental crises and a very tight funding environment, investing in women is a clear winner.
A greater understanding of the impact of environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change on women, coupled with solid public policy that respects and protects women’s reproductive rights, is essential to the “Sustainable Development Goals” that many believe will emerge from Rio+20 to replace the MDGs, which expire in 2015.
As the summit approaches, it’s time to reflect on why women’s full participation and inclusion is so important and call for world leaders to harness the power of women as we launch the era of sustainable development.
Musimbi Kanyoro is president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, which advances women’s human rights by investing in women-led organizations worldwide.
Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization, Guttmacher Institute, Moreland et al. (2010), O’Neill et al. (2010), Princeton Environmental Institute, UN, UNEP, World Bank, World Health Organization.
Photo Credit: “Reokadia Nakaweesa Nalongo,” courtesy of Jason Taylor/Friends of Earth International.
Uganda’s Demographic and Health Challenges Put Into Perspective With Newfound Oil Discoveries [Part Two]›Read part one, on Uganda’s demographic and health challenges, here.
“We never thought we would end up having the same problems here as the people in the Niger Delta. But now I’m worried,” Henry Ford Mirima, a spokesman for Uganda’s Bunyoro kingdom, said last fall in Le Monde Diplomatique. The kingdom – which calls itself East Africa’s oldest – sits along Lake Albert, where over the past seven years British oil company Tullow Oil has discovered oil reserves big enough to produce an estimated 2.5 billion barrels.
The discovery could make Uganda “one of sub-Saharan Africa’s top oil producers,” according to the U.S. State Department, and produce as much as $2 billion in annual oil revenues. Under the best of circumstances, that revenue would go towards addressing the country’s development hurdles, including population, health, and environment challenges. However, Uganda’s ability to peacefully and prosperously develop its natural resources will depend on the government’s ability to mitigate the corruption and inequities of recent years while navigating the security and environmental issues that continue to undercut the country’s stability.
The Displaced Legacy of Conflict
In 1986, as Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army seized power from the government that succeeded President Idi Amin’s rule, Acholi rebels launched an uprising in Uganda’s north. Over the next few years, fighters led by Joseph Kony came to dominate the various splinter groups waging insurrection and, by the early 1990s, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had emerged to wage one of the world’s most brutal insurgencies. Throughout two decades of fighting, as much as 90 percent of northern Uganda’s population was displaced.
Uprooted Ugandans relocated to internally displaced person (IDP) camps, where conditions were so bad they have been described as akin to concentration camps. In 2005, amid worsening violence following a breakdown in ceasefire negotiations, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 1,000 IDPs were dying every week in the Acholi sub-region.
International and domestic pressure forced the LRA base of operations out of Uganda by 2006, but its legacy remains. Looking at numbers alone, IDP reintegration would seem to be proceeding successfully: All but two percent of IDPs have left the camps, either returning to where they lived before the war or relocating to new areas. But the areas they move to tend to be underdeveloped and the government has been slow in implementing development plans to assist in reintegration. Combined, these factors mean that IDPs often end up in areas lacking basic services like healthcare, water, and education.
Growing Pressures on Finite Land
Land rights further complicate reintegration. In some cases, IDPs have returned to their homes only to find that entirely new generations of Ugandans have been born, grown up, and established themselves on their land. In other cases, they have relocated only for the government to evict them. Lacking a functional process for resolving land disputes, conflicts over who owns the land “often become violent,” according to a CSIS report.
The influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) adds another dimension to land disputes. In southwest Uganda, a flood of more than 1,000 Congolese refugees entering the country every week is outpacing the resources available to care for them – including space to house them. In the Kisoro district, which borders the DRC’s volatile North Kivu province, land disputes have become so severe that, in early March, the government sent troops to protect refugees from attacks by Ugandan squatters claiming land designated for camps.
Uganda’s rapidly growing population is putting further pressure on its land. With a total fertility rate of 6.8 children per woman and a growth rate of 3.2 percent, the predominantly rural population is expanding rapidly. As rural Ugandans search for larger and more productive tracts of land, they move farther into the country’s forests which, although protected, have effectively been opened up to migration following a 2006 executive order barring evictions from forest reserves and wetlands.
State of Environment report (2008). At subnational levels, though, deforestation varies wildly; for example, the once densely forested Kibaale district is leading the country at a rate of 49 percent per year, according to the report. On the whole, Uganda’s forests are disappearing so quickly that, by 2050, the country’s environmental management authority predicts that they will have disappeared entirely.
As deforestation continues, it is contributing to drought in some of the country’s most ecologically rich and agriculturally productive regions, which are now, for the first time in generations, experiencing food insecurity. Agricultural shortages have in turn contributed to spikes in food prices, which have been a key driver of the ongoing anti-Museveni protest movement.
Foreign investment, encouraged by Museveni, has in some instances aggravated land disputes. An Oxfam report suggests that the London-based New Forests Company, which purchased 27,000 hectares across three central districts in 2005, has driven more than 20,000 people from their land, sometimes violently. Ironically, the company bought the land to plant forests to be used as part of the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon credit-trading scheme. Friends of the Earth International, too, has made “land grabbing” the focus of a new report and advocacy campaign.
Adding Oil to the Mix
Access to land has become so contentious that disaster preparedness officials consider it a potentially destabilizing issue for Uganda’s future. The discovery of oil near Lake Albert magnifies the potential for instability in general and for land-driven conflict in particular. An estimated 30,000 people will be displaced to make way for an oil refinery, while those who remain have seen their livelihoods curtailed by violence between Ugandan Special Forces (led by Museveni’s son) and Congolese troops stationed on the lake’s shores. Given the lake’s location straddling the Uganda-DRC border, the government has warned that “there is the potential for any conflict to become regional.”
oil revenue will go towards economic development, but given the regime’s growing dependence on political patronage as its popularity declines, observers are worried that Museveni will instead use Uganda’s oil wealth to strengthen his own hold on power.
Lawmakers last year accused three ministers close to Museveni of taking bribes from Tullow, prompting a moratorium on further agreements with the company; however, Museveni has already violated the ban, signing a new production-sharing deal with Tullow earlier this year.
The potential for the misuse of oil revenues is all the greater given that the parliament has yet to establish regulations for the nascent industry. “Countries that start off from weak institutional capacity and poor governance prior to the discovery of oil or large mineral resources are likely to fall victim to the [resource] curse,” the Center for Global Development’s Alan Gelb and Stephanie Majerowicz wrote in a working paper on Uganda’s oil reserves last year. “Oil revenues are likely to exacerbate these institutional weaknesses, leading to greater corruption and poor overall governance.”
Looking at Uganda Through a PHE Lens
Properly managed, Uganda’s oil could propel its people “into the strata of middle-income countries,” but before that happens, the country’s population, health, and environment (PHE) challenges must be addressed. Recognizing the interconnectivity of many of Uganda’s most pressing challenges, several groups have already launched integrated development programs in the country.
Pathfinder International, an international reproductive health organization, recently announced plans for a new PHE program in the Lake Victoria basin that pairs health and family planning services with improved resource management. Like the rest of Uganda, the basin’s population is growing rapidly, straining the area’s natural resources. In the waters around Lake Victoria’s Migingo Island, for example, severe overfishing has provoked a border dispute with neighboring Kenya. By improving access to sexual and reproductive health services, Pathfinder says its work will strengthen sustainable resource management and preserve the region’s biodiversity. And that, in turn, could improve stability and security throughout the basin.
Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), a Ugandan non-profit, aims to do the same in Uganda’s southwest, where some of the region’s most densely populated rural areas straddle Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to nearly half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas and other valuable biodiversity. To sustain the health of both people and ecosystems, CTPH provides family planning and other health services to local communities while also monitoring the health of the gorilla population, which accounts for more than half of national tourism revenue. Minimizing pressures on the region’s fragile but valuable ecosystem helps protect livelihoods, which in turn can reduce the kind of competition over land that, compounded with refugees fleeing the DRC, has contributed to instability in the region.
Uganda, like Mozambique, Kenya, or Ghana, which also recently announced large oil and gas discoveries, may be on the brink of a new era in its economic development. But to enter that era, it must overcome significant demographic, health, environmental, security, and governance challenges.
Those challenges are large – but so too are the human and natural resources available to address them. Meeting unmet need for family planning, for instance, would not just open the door to near-term cost savings, but, when paired with continued investment in basic social services like education, could allow Uganda to realize a powerful demographic dividend. That dividend, coupled with more sustainable resource management, could in turn help overcome the hurdles that have so far limited its development.
Finding a way to ensure that Uganda’s newfound wealth responds to its complex needs will be crucial to ensuring that its already high levels of corruption and inequality are reversed rather than exacerbated, as has too often been the case for sub-Saharan Africa’s resource-rich nations.
Sources: Boston Globe, Brookings Institution, Center for Global Development, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Conservation Through Public Health, Department of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister, Fox Business, Friends of the Earth International, Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique, Monitoring and Evaluation to Assess and Use Results Demographic and Health Surveys (MEASURE DHS), New York Times, Oxfam International, Uganda National Environment Management Authority, United Nations Data, United States Department of State, World Bank, World Health Organization.
Photo Credit: “Tullow oil camp, Uganda,” courtesy of flickr user Conservation Concepts (Mark Jordahl); “Land grabbing in Uganda,” courtesy of Jason Taylor/Friends of the Earth International; “Ugandan anti-corruption sign,” courtesy of flickr user futureatlas.com; “Uganda GV6_lo,” courtesy of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
Uganda’s Demographic and Health Challenges Put Into Perspective With Newfound Oil Discoveries [Part One]›Uganda’s population is the second youngest in the world, with half of the country younger than 15.7 years old (just older than Niger’s median age of 15.5 years). In the past 10 years, the country – about half the size of France in land area – has added 10 million people, growing from 24 to 34 million. That growth, paired with other factors like poor governance and long-standing insecurity, has made providing basic services a difficult task for a government that is one of Africa’s most aid-dependent.
Newfound oil wealth might provide the financial resources to help Uganda overcome its development challenges, but poor management could also make it another victim of the “resource curse” – a combination of corruption, weak land tenure, poor governance, and environmental mismanagement that has contributed to insecurity and dysfunction, rather than prosperity and health, in similarly resource-rich Angola, the Niger Delta, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A Rapidly Growing Population
Six years ago, when Uganda’s population growth rate was 3.1 percent, Population Reference Bureau (PRB) Demographer Carl Haub said, “no one would consider such a rate of growth to be sustainable.”
Unfortunately, Uganda’s growth has shown few signs of abating, and has in fact increased to 3.2 percent – ninth fastest in the world, according to the latest UN data. The UN’s most optimistic projections, which assume the greatest drop in current growth rates, put the country on track to still more than double in size by 2050, growing to 83.5 million people. By comparison, similarly-sized Senegal would be home to 25.2 million under low variant projections. Under the UN’s more likely medium variant projections, the country is expected to grow to 2.7 times its current size, to 94.3 million people. Median age is projected to remain under 20 until the 2040s.
President Yoweri Museveni has repeatedly tied population growth to economic growth in public statements, but that rationale has put him at odds with the country’s central banker, Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, who has argued that so long as the country’s growing population is under-skilled and underemployed, a bigger population will do little to help its economy. In a rare public critique of Museveni, Tumusiime-Mutebile, who is credited with sustaining Uganda’s macroeconomic stability over the past two decades, recently told the Financial Times, “the extremely high population…growth is one of the major things I oppose him about.”
The growing number of Ugandans struggling to earn some kind of living backs up Tumussime-Mutebile’s concerns. Four out of every five Ugandan youths ages 15 to 24 (which account for 21 percent of the total population) are unemployed – a higher rate than anywhere else in Africa. And even though the country’s poverty rate has been halved over the past two decades, in terms of sheer numbers more Ugandans now live in poverty than when Museveni took power in 1986.
Struggling With Public Health
access to health services is extremely limited. Public health has long been underfunded throughout the country, to such an extent that one in two Ugandans seeking medical treatment must use private instead of public clinics “because the latter are unable to provide services,” according to a CSIS report.
In part, public health is suffering from the government’s own misplaced spending priorities. Last spring, in a move that earned the government widespread criticism, Museveni spent $740 million to purchase six Russian fighter jets – nearly triple the previous year’s spending on public health.
Meanwhile, in northern Uganda, the so-called “nodding disease” has spread to infect thousands of children, and the government’s slow response has frustrated local communities, especially in light of the jet purchase.
The disease sends children into fits of seizures and, of the estimated 3,000 Ugandans infected, the health ministry estimates that nearly 200 have died since 2010. Without knowing what causes the disease, care is largely palliative. Eating can worsen seizures and children with the syndrome often end up malnourished, even dying from starvation. While the government has set up a response plan to study and fight the disease – including recently opening up clinics in three of the hardest hit areas – insufficient funding has hampered implementation.
Even in areas where Uganda’s health system used to excel, the country is now struggling. In spite of once being a public health success story for its “ABC” prevention work against HIV/AIDS (“abstain, be faithful, use condoms”), Uganda now has the same number of people living with the disease as the United States, 1.2 million. The country has been criticized for allocating too little of its own money towards the disease, even as international funding is shrinking. In 2010, when the government announced its spending priorities for revenue from oil royalties (which included the fighter jets), HIV/AIDS went unmentioned.
Sidelined Family Planning and Reproductive Health
Perhaps predictably given the public health situation, family planning and reproductive health have long been sidelined in Uganda. Even as some government officials acknowledge that large family sizes are “becoming an impediment to the speed of economic growth and social and structural transformation,” the government has fallen short of adequately and consistently funding family planning and reproductive health services.
Unmet need for family planning is highest in rural areas – 43 percent of rural women report wanting, but not using, contraception to space or limit births, compared to 27 percent in urban areas – and yet, government funding for contraception is insufficient to meet even the urban demand alone, according to the Population Reference Bureau.
couldn’t afford money to bribe the attending nurses. Together, the two deaths spurred a lawsuit against the Ugandan government, arguing that its failure to provide basic maternal care was a violation of these women’s right to life.
Anguko and Nalubowa are vivid examples of the state of maternal and child health in Uganda. Throughout the course of their lifetimes, Ugandan women have a 1-in-35 chance of dying due to pregnancy-related causes; every day, 16 women die in childbirth. The country’s infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. At 79 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, Uganda has the 23rd worst infant mortality rate in the world, not far behind places like Afghanistan (136 deaths), the DRC (116), and Somalia (107).
Meeting Needs Today to Ameliorate Problems Tomorrow
If all Ugandan women with an unmet need for family planning began using some form of contraception, the country’s total fertility rate could fall by more than half, according to an analysis of Uganda’s 2006 Demographic and Health Survey by USAID, from the current rate of 6.2 children per woman to just 2.9. Even if just 10 percent of unmet need were satisfied, total fertility rates would drop to 4.9, putting Uganda only slightly above Rwanda’s current rate of 4.7 – a rate that is the result of a concentrated effort by the government, as New Security Beat contributor Elizabeth Leahy Madsen writes.
Reducing unmet need would impact more than just women and child’s health. USAID’s RAPID Model has shown that investments in family planning to meet existing demand can save millions in future education and health costs, helping to lighten the burden on overtaxed infrastructure and government capacity.
As Uganda’s growth spurs greater demand for increasingly overstretched public services, from health care to education, meeting the Millennium Development Goals – already a challenge for the country – has become more and more difficult. Meeting family planning needs could not only make it easier to achieve those goals, but also to achieve cost savings of nearly $100 million along the way, according to a USAID report.
The 2006 discovery of oil – estimated to be worth as much as $2 billion annually – has introduced new potential and new complexities into Uganda’s ability to meet its MDG targets. “The next generation of Ugandans could grow up in a very different country to that of their parents and grandparents,” wrote advocacy group Global Witness in a report on the country’s newfound resource, “but the risk of the resource curse phenomenon taking hold in Uganda cannot be ignored.”
Continue reading part two of this series, which looks at Uganda’s humanitarian, natural resource, and governance challenges.
Sources: BBC, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book, Financial Times, Fox Business, Global Witness, Monitoring and Evaluation to Assess and Use Results Demographic and Health Surveys (MEASURE DHS), New York Times, Population Action International, Population Reference Bureau, Restless Development, TrustLaw, Uganda Observer, UNAIDS, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), United Nations Population Division (UNPD), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Worldwatch Institute.
Photo Credit: “Sides,” courtesy of flickr user MightBoyWolf (Brian Wolfe); “Katote’s health unit,” courtesy of flickr user make_change; “Immelda Nabirimu,” courtesy of Jason Taylor/Friends of the Earth International.
›April 25, 2012 // By ECSP StaffThe original version of this article, by Richard Cronin, appeared in World Politics Review.
Two decades after the Paris Peace Accord that ended the proxy war in Cambodia, the Mekong Basin has re-emerged as a region of global significance. The rapid infrastructure-led integration of a region some call “Asia’s last frontier” has created tensions between and among China and its five southern neighbors – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Both expanded regional cooperation as well as increased competition for access to the rich resources of the once war-torn region have created serious environmental degradation while endangering food security and other dimensions of human security and even regional stability.
China’s seemingly insatiable demand for raw materials and tropical commodities has made it a fast-growing market for several Mekong countries and an increasingly important regional investor. Economic integration has been boosted by a multibillion dollar network of all-weather roads, bridges, dams, and power lines largely financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that is linking the countries of the Lower Mekong to each other and to China. To date, the ADB’s Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) cooperative development program has primarily benefited large population centers outside the basin proper in China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Unfortunately, the same infrastructure that speeds the flow of people and goods to urban centers also facilitates the environmentally unsustainable exploitation of the forests, minerals, water resources, and fisheries that are still the primary source of food and livelihoods to millions of the Mekong’s poorest inhabitants.
No aspect of China’s fast-growing role and influence in the Mekong region is more evident and more problematic than its drive to harness the huge hydroelectric potential of the Upper Mekong through the construction of a massive cascade of eight large- to mega-sized dams on the mainstream of the river in Yunnan Province. The recently completed Xiaowan dam, the fourth in the series, will mainly be used to send electricity to the factories and cities of Guangdong Province, its coastal export manufacturing base some 1,400 kilometers away. China’s Yunnan cascade will have enough operational storage capacity to augment the dry season flow at the border with Myanmar and Laos by 40-70 percent, both to maintain maximum electricity output and facilitate navigation on the river downstream as far as northern Laos for boats of up to 500 tons.
Continue reading in World Politics Review.
Photo Credit: “Xiaowan Dam Site,” courtesy of International Rivers.
›Energizing people around family planning can be difficult, “because donors, like everyone else, like something that’s new,” said Karen Newman, coordinator for the UK-based Population and Sustainability Network. “There’s nothing new about family planning. The technology is safe, effective, it’s acceptable, and it works. We just need a lot more of it out there to be accessible to a lot more people.”
Newman spoke to ECSP at the 2012 Planet Under Pressure conference about her hopes for the upcoming Rio+20 sustainable development conference, which marks the 20-year anniversary of the UN Earth Summit.
“What we want is increased investment in voluntary family planning services that respect and protect rights,” Newman said, “and I think that Rio represents a fabulous opportunity for us to re-identify family planning as a core development priority.”
Newman also hopes the Rio conference will lead to “an integrated look at sustainable development, so that… it isn’t just about the green economy and institutional framework, it’s looking at sustainable development in the round.”
Government development programs and policymakers need to adapt their bureaucratic processes to the kinds of integrated programming being carried out on the ground, she said. In Madagascar, for example, conservation group Blue Ventures leads an integrated PHE program that cuts across marine conservation, family planning, and healthcare sectors. “Now I defy you to find an EU budget line that would be broad enough to embrace marine conservation and family planning in the same project line,” said Newman.
“The first thing we need is that level of integrated thinking – not just in Rio, but also in the way that we conceptualize the work that needs to be done and we facilitate the availability of funding streams that can fund that kind of integrated program.”
Lastly, Newman hopes that the summit in and of itself is successful because of its implications for future development work. As the world gears up to create the next big framework for global development to follow the Millennium Development Goals, Rio is uniquely positioned to set a baseline for what matters and for what the development community is capable of accomplishing.
“What I want to see is a really sophisticated look at sustainable development, coming up with sustainable development goals in a world that makes sense of seven billion, where there are still millions of women without access to the family planning services that we take for granted,” said Newman, “and taking that concept to the job of developing the post-MDG framework that will frame development for the next 20 years.”
›April 24, 2012 // By ECSP StaffLoading the player…The original version of this article, by John Donnelly, appeared on the Global Post.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s World Clock says that the population of the world today is estimated at 7.008 billion people, while projections show that the world could reach the 9 billion marker by 2050.
In the last of its series called “7 Billion: Conversations That Matter,” Aspen Institute’s Global Health and Development hosted a panel of experts based in Africa and the United States on the interconnectedness of gender issues, family planning, population, and access to safe water.
The point of the series was to ask questions about why it mattered that the world was passing the seven billion mark, and the questions today in Washington were appropriately big: Will water wars replace oil wars? What are the solutions to expand water and sanitation to the 2.5 billion people who don’t have it? And just how many people can the world support in an equitable fashion?
An answer to the last question: You need a bigger pie, better manners, and fewer forks.
Borrowing from a book by Joel Cohen called How Many People can the Earth Support? (written in 1996 when the world supported a 5.7 billion population), Laurie Mazur, director of the Population Justice Project, said that the answer was “it depends on how we use resources.”
Continue reading on the Global Post.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau.
›Insights From Past Millennia Into Climatic Impacts on Human Health and Survival,” Anthony McMichael compares scientific literature that reconstructs past climates with epidemiological research and comes away with more than a dozen examples of the influence of climate on human health and survival. “Risks to health [as a result of climatic change] are neither widely nor fully recognized,” McMichael writes, but “weather extremes and climatic impacts on food yields, fresh water, infectious diseases, conflict, and displacement” have led to human suffering across the centuries. Some of the literature reviewed, for instance, links the Younger Dryas (a several centuries long period of cooling) to hunger in the Nile Valley between 11,000 and 12,000 years ago, climatic shifts that expanded the range of disease carrying rats and fleas to the “Black Death” during the mid-1400s, and unusually strong El Niño events to a series of late Victorian-era droughts during the late-1800s.
Climate Variability and Climate Change: The New Climate Dice,” a working paper from James Hansen, Makiko Sato, and Reto Ruedy recently submitted to PNAS, uses surface air temperature analysis from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies to examine the impact of global warming on the frequency of extreme weather events. Using measurements from 1951 to 1980 as a baseline, the study finds, first, that the planet has warmed by around half of a degree Celsius since the reference period, and second, that the global area affected by “extreme anomalies” (exceeding three standard deviations from the mean climate) has increased by a factor greater than 10. Affecting approximately 10 percent of global land surface in the last several years, these anomalies, such as the droughts and heat waves observed in Texas in 2011, Moscow in 2010, and France in 2003, “almost certainly would not have occurred in the absence of the global warming,” according to the authors.
The study uses this new evidence about the impact of climate change to update the concept of climate change as a “loading of the climate dice.” Where, the “climate of 1951-1980 [is represented] by colored dice with two sides red for ‘hot,’ two side blue for ‘cold,’ and two sides white for near average temperature,” and the dice themselves represent the chance of observing variations on mean temperature. Under this metaphor, today’s climate is best approximated by a dice with four sides red, one blue, and one white, according to the study.
As for the future, the data suggest that with just one full degree of warming, anomalies three deviations beyond the mean will be the norm, and five deviations beyond the mean will become more likely (the latest IPCC projections suggest between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius are likely). In essence, the red side of the die are not only multiplying, but becoming much more extreme. To put this into scale, the Moscow 2010 heat wave, an event that exceeded the three deviations mark, coincided with a doubling of the death rate in the Russian capital.
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