Impacts of Climate Change on Developing Countries II

Scientists believe the global temperatures will continue to rise for the decades to come, largely due to greenhouse gasses produced by human activities. Over the next century, the temperature might rise by 10 degrees Fahrenheit

Climate change is more than a heating phenomenon and has larger impacts. Climate change is a change in existing climatic system and weather patterns owing to various reasons. It is not in fact synonymous to global warming rather it has been accentuated and has become more pronounced and visible due to global warming in recent times. Scientists have high confidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come, largely due to greenhouse gasses produced by human activities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, forecasts a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. According to the IPCC, the extent of climate change effects on individual regions will vary over time and with the ability of different societal and environmental systems to mitigate or adapt to change. The IPCC predicts that increases in global mean temperature of less than 1.8 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1 to 3 degrees Celsius) above 1990 levels will produce beneficial impacts in some regions and harmful ones in others. Net annual costs will increase over time as global temperatures increase. Retreating glaciers, rising sea levels and changing patterns of rainfall speak volumes about the magnanimity of climate change. Though it is a global phenomenon and without discrimination affecting the world, still developing world is likely to face the real challenges in future.

Geography and Economy of Developing World

Developing countries are prone to climatic variations because of their geographic features and their economic outlook. Most of the LDCs are agrarian in nature and lands are either irrigated or rain-fed. Population clusters are found near river banks. For instance, in Indian subcontinent, major population clusters are found on the alluvial soils. Few of the largest rivers in the world are found in this region like Yangtze and Yellow rivers in China, Ganges Brahmapurta in Bangladesh and Indus in Pakistan. In Pakistan, 90% of the arable land is irrigated and 10% is rain-fed. More than 60% of the work force is consumed in agriculture sector and this subtropical semi-arid climatic country receives maximum of its rainfall share during monsoon season. Himalayas, the greatest geographic feature of the region, that is considered as the Third Pole of the world and waters the lands of most of the Asiatic region including massive population clusters of China, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Many among LDCs exist in the most vulnerable region of the world due to climatic variations. Rising sea levels, intense weather patterns and frequent droughts and floods have become the permanent feature since last few years.

More importantly, almost all of the world’s LDCs were once colonial possessions of one or more of the great European powers: England, France or Spain. Their independence was mostly obtained at some point in the 20th century. Colonial powers thought of territorial possessions as sources of raw materials and commercial opportunities that enhanced prosperity at home.  Agriculture and mining, therefore, were the major economic activities that were carried on in the colonies, and little or no investment was made in capital, or even in education or infrastructure, beyond what was needed to provide docile workers, or get the raw materials to the ports. These were the economic conditions that were inherited by the colonised nations when they gained their independence.

Impacts of Climate Change on LDCs

Keeping in view the geographic and climatic features of the developing nations and their economic conditions it is not difficult to understand that climate change can play havoc with them. Experts agree that the world’s poor will bear the brunt of climate change. As rainfall becomes increasingly unpredictable, small holder farmers will find it harder than ever to grow the food they need. Moreover, frequent natural disasters will effect the poorest that are most exposed to hunger because they have no support structures to protect them. Few are the very peculiar impacts of climate change on developing countries and are stated as under:
Retreating glaciers, rising sea levels and changing patterns of rainfall speak volumes about the magnanimity of climate change. Though it is a global phenomenon and without discrimination affecting the world, still developing world is likely to face the real challenges in future.
1-Food Insecurity and impacts on agriculture
Certainly the increased temperatures and unpredictable patterns of rain are directly affecting agriculture sector and food for masses. LDCs that are largely agrarian and are worst effected by this change. Existing rain belt is shifting and resulting in desertification of the arable land. It is said that by 2050, climate change is expected to increase the risk of hunger by 10% to 20% compared to a no-climate change scenario. It is also expected that by 2050 there will be 24 million more malnourished children as a result of climate change. Almost half of this increase, 10 million children, will be in sub-Saharan Africa. With climate change, two-thirds of the arable land in Africa could be lost by 2025 and by 2030 climate change could push food prices up by 50% to 90% more than they would otherwise be expected to rise, according to a recent report. Desertification of the tropical lands will leave millions malnourished.

2-Rise in sea level and climate related disasters

Rising sea levels increase the risk of coastal flooding and can cause population displacement. More than half of the world’s population now lives within 60 km of shorelines. Floods can directly cause injury and death, and increase risks of water-borne diseases. Rising seas threaten to inundate low-lying areas and islands, threaten dense coastal populations, erode shorelines, damage property and destroy ecosystems such as mangroves and wetlands that protect coasts against storms and triggers climate-related disasters. Climate change is intensifying the circulation of water on above and below the surface of the earth and causing drought and floods to be more frequent, severe and widespread. Higher temperatures increase the amount of moisture that evaporates from land and water, leading to drought in many areas. Between 1980 and 2006 the number of climate-related disasters has quadrupled. The number of people affected by climate-related disasters is expected to reach 375 million per year by 2015. In 2010, climate-related extreme events and disasters affected some 300 million people, most often in countries which have little capacity to cope. Scientific research indicates that climate change will cause hurricanes and tropical storms to become more intense; lasting longer, unleashing stronger winds, and causing more damage to coastal ecosystems and communities. Scientists point to higher ocean temperatures as the main culprit, since hurricanes and tropical storms get their energy from warm water.
3-Heat related diseases
In 2003, extreme heat waves caused more than 1,500 deaths in India. In addition to heat-related illness, climate change may increase the spread of infectious diseases, mainly because warmer temperatures allow disease-carrying insects, animals and microbes to survive in areas where they were once thwarted by cold weather. Diseases and pests that were once limited to the tropics’ such as mosquitoes that carry malaria ‘may find hospitable conditions in new areas that were once too cold to support them. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that climate change may have caused more than 150,000 deaths in the year 2000 alone, with an increase in deaths likely in the future.

4-Water issues

Existing situation in South Asia will sufficiently provide evidences of water shortages that are expected in near future. Countries like Pakistan are already on the verge of being declared as drought prone. More importantly water emergency in India also indicates that world is not far from the time when water will be a rare commodity. Debates have often being conducted under the title that 21st century will be the century of water wars. That is purely because of global warming and climate change. Himalayas, as per the reports of IPCC, are likely to melt by 2040. They are the feeding source of agricultural sector in the region and major source of fresh water for the billions.

Analysis

Efforts like Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagen Conference have been victim to political tussle. Hence, solution to climate change and global warming remains a distant reality. There is no denying the fact that LDCs have to pay for the sins that MDCs has done by destroying the ecosystem and atmosphere. Reducing carbon emissions is not the only solution. Adaptability is a healthy option but that too has high cost. If a case with Pakistan is considered, saving existing water resources, forestation, low fuel consumption and traffic control, solving energy woes, more equipped to control disasters like 2010 floods, developed agriculture system to answer food shortages, health measures to control heat related and water related diseases and such solutions can be forwarded. There can be general guide lines for LDCs but the permanent solution of this gigantic monster varies county to county and should be dealt accordingly. A lot more can be said about this topic of global concern, but to cap it all, it can be said that closing eyes and waiting for things to happen will not help LDCs. They must look up and save themselves from this disaster.
By: Sikander Zishan

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