The Human Development Paradigm
In 1990, the United Nations published the first Human Development Report (HDR) in which the concept and measurement of human development was put forth to the development community. Human development, in this literature, focuses on people rather than wealth generation. The 1990 HDR report recognized that statistical aggregates and national income figures have at times obscured the fact that the primary objective of development is to benefit people. Thus, the approach rejected an exclusive focus on the growth of gross national product (GNP) and a top-down, externally-driven strategy for developing countries. Although, the approach recognized wealth generation as important for achieving certain ends; the primary concern shifted to the reduction of human deprivation, the creation of human capabilities and the unleashing of “processes that enlarge people’s choices”. These choices include the capability to lead a long healthy life, to be educated, to acquire knowledge, to have access to the resources required for achieving a decent standard of living, to have political freedom, to have social freedom, and to have economic freedom. As such, this approach focuses on capabilities and conceptualizes human development as the enhancement of capability and freedom, coined as the ‘capability approach’. The ‘capability approach’ is based on the ideas put forth by Sen in a number of his works, including his book Development as Freedom. The ‘capability approach’ takes what “people are actually able to do or be” as its point of reference. A person’s capability refers to the feasible set or sets of functions that circumstances allow him or her to achieve. As Sen says, ‘‘capability is thus a kind of freedom: the substantive freedom to achieve alternative functioning combinations (or less formally put, the freedom to achieve various lifestyles)’’.
Drawing upon this notion of capability, Sen has argued that freedom should be considered as both the ends and means of development. Thus, in this view the task of social change consists primarily in eradicating “unfreedoms” that prevent the creation of capabilities. The ‘capability approach’ rests within a liberal normative framework, with its core ideas of universalism; a liberal and pluralist notion of the state; the priority of individual freedoms; formal (as opposed to substantive) equality; emphasis on individual agency; and a vision of (regulated) capitalism as a context in which opportunity and freedom is generated and human agency thrives.
While it is acknowledged that a wide variety of capabilities may be necessary for human development, in the formulation of policy, four specific types of capabilities have been given priority: knowledge, health, a decent standard of living and human freedoms. In the most recent HDR another dimension has been added, namely, cultural liberty. The HDR 2004 thus presents the following model of enhanced human development.
The ‘capability approach’ has been widely critiqued. Sandbrook has noted various inadequacies including the assumptions that ‘free markets’ are natural, that market exchange is intrinsically valuable, that humans are able to make rational choices to select various freedoms, and that humans primarily act in self-interest. Moreover, Bagchi has critiqued the ‘capability approach’ for ignoring how existing capitalism functions within an array of complex, often unequal, power relations. Likewise, the approach ignores the limits of liberal democracy in reality under a capitalist economic order. Finally, the discourse lacks an analysis of the historical relations of production and the historical origins of lack of freedom. Despite the narrow framework of the ‘capability approach’ it has been widely accepted in policy circles and forms the basis for the human development strategies employed by key development organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Accordingly, this paper will discuss the effects of global warming against the mainstream notion of human development under the ‘capability approach’, while recognizing that this framework has its own inadequacies.
Global warming will affect human development, although to what degree remains uncertain. Global warming may worsen existing social and economic challenges, particularly for those societies dependent on resources that are sensitive to climate change. It is already clear that weather variability is affecting human development throughout the South, and that in the future weather variability and raising sea levels will hamper human development. The United Nations broadly defines human development as the process of enlarging people’s choices. In 2000, in congruence with the ‘capability approach’ to human development adopted by the United Nations, 160 nations committed themselves to achieving eight development goals, known as the Millennium Development Goals. Broadly, these goals call for eradicating hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development. The negative impact of global warming on the viability of these goals cannot be understated and each of these will be discussed in turn.
Global Warming, Poverty, and Hunger
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has assessed the capacity of the world to cope and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change. The assessment found that the impacts will not be evenly distributed and will fall disproportionately on the poor and persons less capable of coping with weather changes. Weather variability has already led to a doubling of environmental disasters in the past decade, which affected the lives of 2 billion people. Under conditions of global warming it is estimated that over 1 billion persons will be at additional risk of flood damage, 22 million will be subject to coastal flooding, and 20 million will starve per annum. Weather disasters related to El Niños, such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts disproportionately affect developing nations. For example, weather-related disasters in the 1990s averaged a reported 1,000 deaths per disaster in countries with low human development, while only 22 people died from weather-related disasters in countries with high human development. Deaths, dislocation, and economic devastation are some of the effects of weather changes do and will have in developing countries. In the 1990s alone, 73,000 people died due to weather-related disasters in the Caribbean. The IPCC estimates that with a one meter rise in sea level, 80 percent of the population of Guyana will be displaced at a cost equivalent to 1,000 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Economically, in 1998 Hurricane Mitch destroyed three quarters of Honduras’ GDP in a few days by destroying agricultural capability, homes, infrastructure, and industries. According to the New Economics Foundation, the development of the country was set back by two decades from the hurricane. As such, weather-related disasters can induce poverty or worsen it for the most vulnerable sectors of society.
Global warming is already undermining food security and threatens the capacity of the world to eradicate hunger. For example, the Mozambique floods of 2000 were the worst in 150 years, and led to plant and agricultural devastation. Droughts in Ethiopia in the 1970s and 1980s demonstrate the vulnerability of humanity to weather-related changes. The droughts killed 1.4 million people and displaced a further 9 million due to the destruction of the food and water resource base. Crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to fall by 20 percent under global warming, worsening existing malnourishment in the region. The regions where food security is already a challenge will face greater insecurity and rising crises under conditions of climate change, which will render eradication of hunger or poverty an unachievable goal.
Global Warming and Education
Floods, hurricanes, droughts and other weather-related changes pose an indirect challenge to improving access to education. Most obviously, the destruction of schooling infrastructure during disasters eliminates local capacity to maintain the education of its youth. For example, more than one million classrooms across Latin America and the Caribbean are vulnerable to weather-related disasters. Under conditions of climatic change, the risk of losing these educational facilities is high. Likewise, flooding affects the homes of 50 million people a year, a situation which will worsen under rising sea levels. Dislocated families will be less capable of re-establishing their lives and gaining access to education for their children. Moreover, estimates predict that climate change-induced famine may result in more than 150 million environmental refugees worldwide by 2050. Under such conditions without housing or a permanent location, the ability for children to attend school will be undermined as global warming progresses. Moreover, persistent malnourishment of young children, which will worsen under climate change in the South, threatens the capacity of children to attend school.
Global Warming and Gender Equality
Climate change is not a gender neutral process. In general, women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, because they represent the majority of the world's poor and because they are more than proportionally dependent on natural resources that will be threatened under conditions of climatic change. Climate change will negatively affect agricultural yields of those regions most prone to famine and drought. In those regions, where women are typically engaged in farming activities, lower crop yields will increase the hardship on women. Moreover, under rising temperatures the tasks of farming, fishing, and supplying water and fuel will become more difficult. These tasks are typically and disproportionately the responsibility of women, and as such the hardships endured by women are likely to increase. in times of extreme weather conditions. Events such as storms, floods, and cyclones put the burden of dealing with devastation and destruction on the women who are responsible for nurturing the family. Moreover, concerned feminists point out that as global warming and weather-related disasters undermine development budgets for gender programming, the risks of ‘gender disparity’ will worsen rather then improve.
Global Warming, Health, and Child Mortality
The health risks related to global warming are widespread and will seriously undermine the United Nations’ commitment to halting diseases. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) anticipated health impacts include an increase in cardio-respiratory deaths and illness. In some very large cities (e.g., Atlanta, Shanghai) by about 2050,. This would result in up to several thousand extra heat-related deaths annually. This heat-related mortality increase would be offset by fewer cold-related deaths in milder winters, albeit to an extent that was not yet adequately estimated and likely to vary between populations. Similarly, climate change can change the geographic distribution and biological behavior of vector organisms of vector-borne infectious and infective parasites would alter—usually increase—the potential transmission of such diseases. Warmer, wetter conditions will increase both the range and season of vector organisms such as mosquitoes and tsetse flies, which in turn spread diseases like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis. According to the IPCC, exposure to malaria under global warming will increase the number of people at risk to malaria by the tens of millions. Simulations with global/regional mathematical models indicated that, in the absence of demographic shifts, the proportion of the world's population living within the potential malaria transmission zone would increase from ~45% in the 1990s to ~60% by 2050. Some localized decreases in malaria transmissibility also may occur in response to climate change.
Likewise, warmer temperatures, rising sea levels and floods are associated with outbreaks of cholera and Rift Valley Fever. Milder winters in the North will allow pathogens to persist. In the drier regions of the world, cases of meningitis are expected to increase. In drought-prone regions were clean water sources are under threat of evaporating there is serious risk that water-stressed populations will turn to polluted alternatives. This can lead to the spread of waterborne diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, and diarrhoeal disease. Thus, under conditions of global warming human health is likely to worsen rather then improve despite the UN's Millennium Development Goals.
Moreover, disease outbreaks will also have serious impacts on the ability to reduce child mortality in countries with low human development. For example, currently Africa loses 1.8 million children a year to malaria, a situation likely to worsen under global warming and raising temperatures. Undernourished mothers, a likely consequence of decreased agricultural productivity in the South, will raise the susceptibility of children to disease and stillborn deaths. During the El Niño episodes children are at high risk of mortality. For example, during the 1982-1983 El Niño, infant mortality in Peru increased by 103 percent. There are legitimate concerns that infant and child mortality will worsen under conditions of global warming.
Global Warming and Environmental Sustainability
Global warming poses a serious threat to the ecosystems of the world especially in regions vulnerable to climate change. Part of achieving sustainability is improving fresh water access of the 1.3 billion people who do not currently have access to safe drinking water. Under conditions of global warming these numbers will rise as the availability of safe water supplies decreases. According to the National Institute of Hydrology in India, the Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, and Brahmaputra rivers may shrink by one quarter under conditions of global warming. Likewise, improvement in the lives of slum dwellers will be undermined by climate change. As the planet warms, urban slums will become breeding grounds for disease, especially as more people turn to increasingly contaminated water sources. Moreover, coastal communities are seriously vulnerable to global warming and rising sea levels. Sixteen of the world’s nineteen mega-cities are on coastlines. The urban poor will be displaced and evacuation costs will be high. It is estimated with a one meter rise in sea levels, 6 million people in Shanghai will be displaced. As the sea level rises, counties such as Tuvalu are facing a future in which their counties may cease to exist, clearly an unsustainable predicament.
Given the environmental and social risks of global warming it is striking that nowhere in the UN Millennium Development Goals is mitigation or adaptation to global warming even mentioned. Changes to the natural environment will undermine the capacity to meet the environmental sustainability goals and most of the other UN Millennium Development Goals. Poverty, hunger, lack of primary education, gender inequality, poor health, child mortality and environmental destruction are likely to worsen under conditions of global warming. Scientists estimate that global emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced between 60-80 percent if we are to avoid dangerous climate change and the severe consequences it poses to humanity and ecology. Yet, lack of addressing global warming in the UN Millennium Development Goals seriously undermines the ability of achieving any of these goals in the long-term. Similarly, global warming will undermine the capacity to achieve sustainable livelihoods to which the discussion will now turn.
Global Warming and Sustainable Livelihoods
Where humans live and how they generate a livelihood has been influenced by the ambient climate in all societies. All societies are susceptible to changes in climate. The unprecedented weather-related challenges to come under global climatic warming pose a serious threat to current social organization and the capacities of people to generate a livelihood. For no other group is this more relevant than poor communities which depend on their local environment for achieving a livelihood. The concept of sustainable livelihoods offers new insights into the dynamics of development and the diversity of experiences of poor people throughout the world. According to Carney (1998), “A livelihood compromises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources) and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base”. The emergence of livelihood approaches has led to new understandings on how poverty, and the ability to move out of poverty, reflects the capabilities and assets available to the poor. Climate change and its associated ecological changes pose a threat to the viability of sustaining livelihoods. This is particularly true where climate change will destroy or reduce the quality of the local natural resource base upon which current livelihoods depend. The livelihood model starts with entitlements and access people possess to the resource base in their locality. The resource base encompasses all types of resources, including natural, human, material, and non-material items. These in turn define the livelihood assets that are available to a household. The broad five livelihood assets include financial, social, natural, physical and human assets. Taken together, these assets represent the potential of a household to secure a livelihood.
Climate change poses a serious threat to all of these assets, particularly in underdeveloped countries. Natural capital can be defined as the natural resource stock from which resource flows useful to livelihoods are derived. The actual resources available to a household reflect the characteristics of the local resource base and the extent to which the household is able to gain access to these resources. Natural resources are significant for poor people, who tend to be most dependent upon the environment and the direct use of natural resources. Today three quarters of the poor in developing countries living in rural areas derive their income from natural resources. Climatic change threatens ecosystem functionality and integrity, which in turn will undermine livelihood security for those dependent on the natural environment most. Sea level rises, flooding, changes to temperature and rainfall, extreme weather events, lower fishing yields, lower crop yields and pests will all threaten the natural resource bases on which livelihoods depend.
Social capital is the set of social relationships upon which people draw in order to pursue their livelihood. This includes the range of contact networks, membership of groups and organizations, relationships of trust and their access to wider institutions of society that are important to the operation of livelihood activities. Weather-related disasters and rising sea levels threaten to displace millions of the poor and even entire states such as Tuvalu. Under such circumstances those that are displaced will have few opportunities to re-establish their lives, especially in urban areas where livelihood opportunities are limited without the skills, capital and contacts needed to cope with urban life. Moreover, famine, disease and death will threaten the livelihoods of many poor people. As such, global warming may seriously undermine the social capital people rely upon in pursuit of their livelihoods.
Similarly, climate change poses a serious risk to human capital as well. Human capital refers to the skills, knowledge, ability to labor, and good health which are a necessary foundation in the ability to pursue a livelihood. As noted earlier, access to education will be undermined by weather disasters. This will have serious consequences to the human capital available within a locale. Moreover, it is likely that environmental refugees from climate change will have little opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to re-establish their human capital. International law provides no protection for environmental refugees to allow them the right of acquiring new skills once displaced. For example, during the drought which devastated Afghanistan from 1998-2001, around 80,000 Afghan fled to Pakistan. The Pakistan authorities successfully argued that they were not eligible for refugee status since they were fleeing a natural hazard. Without international legal protection for environmental refugees, acquiring access to skills will be seriously undermined. Likewise, under conditions of global warming, rising health problems, such as the spread of vector- and water-borne disease, will particularly affect the poor. Health risks impact livelihoods since the contribution of key productive members of the household may be lost. Moreover, health care is costly and time-consuming for the poor. Likewise, declining food security, in consequence of climate change, will reduce nutrition and make many more poor people vulnerable to the effects of disease. As such, global warming poses multiple threats to the ability of poor people to maintain the human capital base on which their livelihood capability depends.
Also, physical capital is at danger under conditions of global warming. Physical capital is the basic infrastructure for transport, buildings, water management, energy, and communications and productive capital which enable people to pursue a livelihood. Natural disasters and extreme weather variability can undermine this resource base. For example, in the 1990s natural disasters destroyed US$300 billion worth of physical assets in developing nations. Destruction of infrastructure will undermine existing livelihood activities as well as new livelihood opportunities. For example, destruction of infrastructure will halt tourism activities on which livelihood diversification may depend.
Finally, climate change will threaten the ability of poor people to gain access to financial capital. Financial capital refers to the financial resources available to people which subsequently provide them with different livelihood options. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stresses the impact of climatic change on access to financial capital for the poor. Under climatic change, severe losses in assets and income-generating capability due to the destruction of the resource base will discourage the financing and credit provisions that are vitally needed.
As such, global warming not only threatens the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals in the long-term, but it also threatens the capability of people to provide for their own livelihoods. Climate change will set back progress in human development with negative implications for social and economic arrangements. Some regions will suffer these negative consequences more then others; however, under conditions of climate change new structural social and economic changes are expected throughout the world.
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