Redefining Development in the Age of Climate Change


Climate change has slowly grown to be a complex challenge in the early years of the 21st century.  Its effects on development is profound and well documented and if no effective policies and strategies are put in place climate change threatens to reverse or halt any human development achieved thus far.

The profound effects that climate change has brought to development are brought out by a World Bank 2015 report which states that  a quarter of the population of developing countries still lives on less than $1.25 a day. One billion people lack clean drinking water; 1.6 billion, electricity; and 3 billion,
adequate sanitation.

A quarter of all developing-country children are malnourished. In addition development is likely to be halted because developing countries would bear some 75 to 80 percent of the costs of damages caused by the changing climate, (World Bank 2015). OMA Insurance Company estimates that since 1980 insurance companies have paid about USD 2 trillion towards damages caused by climate related incidents. This accounts for 88% of all property loses which brings out the need for people, businesses and countries to put in place measures that reduce the impact of climate change. It should be noted that even 2°C warming above preindustrial temperatures which is the minimum the world is likely to experience could result in permanent reductions in GDP of 4 to 5 percent for Africa and South Asia.  The situation is worsened by the sad fact that most developing countries lack sufficient financial and technical capacities to manage increasing climate risk. Developing countries suffer more because they depend more directly on climate-sensitive natural resources for income and well-being.  Those countries that are in tropical and subtropical regions are already subject to highly
variable climate.

The effects of climate change cut across every spectra of society from economic, political to social dimensions. The effects of climate change are multiple and they touch or affect almost all the basic lifestyle of a person. For example, Climate change has directly or indirectly brought upon droughts, floods, hunger, famine, forced migration, conflicts, early child marriages, water shortages, more heat waves, strong storms, proliferation of diseases like malaria and it will make it difficult to fight off completely decades old diseases like TB and HIV/AIDS as governments shall draw resources away from development initiatives. In addition, climate change cuts across national boundaries and therefore in that regard No country alone can take on the interconnected challenges posed by climate change, including controversial political decisions, daunting technological change, and far-reaching global consequences. Africa is one of the continents that is experiencing the worst effects of climate change. This is largely due to the incapacity of these countries to finance effective climate mitigation, adaptation and resilient initiatives. This is worsened by the fact that the region has over decades being characterized by under development and poverty, thus climate change management is given less priority. However, it is important that addressing the challenges of climate change remains a top priority for both of developing countries, developed countries and development agencies.

Against this background, Developing countries are bound not to meet most targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) as climate change threatens to deepen vulnerabilities, erode hard-won gains, and seriously undermine prospects for development. Promoting development in the age of climate change is a complex process that demands extraordinary ingenuity and cooperation since climate change is immense and multidimensional. Such cooperation is of fundamental importance in fighting climate change because if people do not act now, act differently and act together development will get harder, not easier, with climate change.  With the world always moving towards massive expansions in energy, transport, urban systems, and agricultural production. These traditional technologies and carbon intensities though they are much needed for day to day human operations will however  produce more greenhouse gases and, hence, more climate change. The question and argument is then to create a society in which people need not to only make development more resilient to climate change but pursue growth and prosperity without causing dangerous climate change. In that light the following three principles should be adopted if development is to be achieved in the age of climate change.

Acting now is essential, or else options disappear and costs increase as the world commits itself to high-carbon pathways and largely irreversible warming trajectories. Climate change is already compromising efforts to improve standards of living and to achieve targets set upon in the SDG’s. Immediate actions are also needed to cope with the changing climate and to minimize the costs to people, infrastructure and ecosystems today as well as to prepare for the greater changes in store. The idea is to develop strategies that ensure climate change does not hamper development but instead foster development. The adoption and use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar can be a starting point since the use of fossil fuels worsen climate change. In addition with predictions of increased water scarcity in the next 30 years production of hydroelectricity is likely to be affected. Energy drives development thus the need to foster strategies that make climate change a development ingredient.

Acting together is key to keeping the costs down and effectively tackling both adaptation and mitigation to the effects of climate change.  It has to start with high-income countries taking aggressive action to reduce their own emissions. That would free some pollution space for developing countries, but most importantly, it would stimulate innovation and the demand for new technologies so that they can be rapidly scaled up. It would also help create a sufficiently large and stable carbon market. Both these effects are critical to enable developing countries to move to a lower carbon trajectory while rapidly gaining access to the energy services needed for development, although they will need to be supplemented with financial support. Acting together is also critical to advance development in a harsher environment since increasing climate risks will exceed communities’ capacity to adapt. National and international support will be essential to protect the most vulnerable through social assistance programs, to develop international risk-sharing arrangements, and to promote the exchange of knowledge, technology, and information. Providing climate education to young people is a good starting point since they are the future custodians of the environment. If positive environment behaviour is imparted among young people that knowledge and skills shall be cascaded down to future generations thus inevitably creating a generation that is capable of developing climate mitigation, adaptation and resilient sustainable strategies.

Acting differently is required to enable a sustainable future in a changing world. In the next few decades, the world’s energy systems must be transformed so that global emissions drop 50 to 80 percent. Infrastructure must be built to withstand new extremes. To feed 3 billion more people without further threatening already stressed ecosystems, agricultural productivity and efficiency of water use
must improve.

Against this background it is therefore critical for the world to develop a robust paradigm shift from the traditional approaches to development. Climate change is affecting our daily way of life either directly or indirectly thus there is need to put climate change management at the foundation of development initiatives.  Development in the age of climate change requires sound craftsmanship and enviropreneurship that ensures that climate change works for us not against us.


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