The 2009 edition of The State of World Population shows that climate change is more than an issue of energy efficiency or industrial carbon emissions; it is also an issue of population dynamics, poverty and gender equity.
Setbacks due to climate change will result from water scarcities, intense tropical storms and storm surges, floods, loss of glacial meltwater for irrigated agriculture, food shortages and health crises. Also as a result of climate change, sea levels will rise, threatening low-lying, densely populated coastal areas and small island states. Indonesia could lose as many as 2,000 small islands by 2030 as a result of rising seas.
Climate change also threatens to worsen poverty or burden marginalized and vulnerable groups with additional hardships. In Southeast Asia, for example, about 221 million people already live below the $2-a-day poverty line. Poor households are further vulnerable because their marginal income provides little or no access to health services or other safety nets to protect against the threats from changing conditions and because they lack the resources to relocate when crises strike. Some of the possible direct threats to the world’s poor include death and illness resulting from extreme heat, unusual cold, infectious diseases and malnutrition.
Climate change will not only endanger lives and undermine livelihoods, but it threatens to exacerbate the gaps between rich and poor and amplify the inequities between women and men. Women—particularly those in poor countries— are among the most vulnerable to climate change, partly because in many countries they make up the larger share of the agricultural work force and partly because they tend to have access to fewer income-earning opportunities.
In addition, women are those who manage households and care for family members, and that often limits their mobility and increases their vulnerability to sudden weather-related natural disasters. Drought and erratic rainfall force women to work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes. Girls drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks.
In the today world of risks and uncertainties no country or community stands alone. The scale and the complexity of environmental problems and “the challenge of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and adapting to climate change requires us to look beyond the obvious and to marshal innovative strategies” says Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund.
While an integrated action is necessary, the most effective solutions to climate change, “will be those that come from the bottom up, that are based on communities’ knowledge of their immediate environment, that empower—not victimize or overburden—those who must adapt to a new world, and that do not create a new dependency relationship between developed and developing countries.”
Read more or download State of the World Population 2009, here.