Developing Social Resilience Amidst Climate Change and Global Insecurity: Finding Peaceful Pathways to the Future

By Reck, Ruth A. | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Developing Social Resilience Amidst Climate Change and Global Insecurity: Finding Peaceful Pathways to the Future


Reck, Ruth A., Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Introduction

Today the fabric of earth's civilization is being challenged by the random forces of climate change. As far as we know from recorded history never before has there been as many people living on earth to face these ominous forces. But our resources are strong and it is our fate, working together, to face these growing obstacles to our future.

As of 18:30 GMT 22 July 2008, the world population was estimated to be 6,711,751,214, the world rate of increase being nearly half of its peak value which was, 2.2 % per year, in 1963. (1) Even with this decreased rate of growth world population is expected to reach the 9 billion mark by ~2042 (23). The distribution of the growth rate by country is shown in Figure 1.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

"China and India, the only two countries to have a population greater than 1 billion, together possess more than a third of the world's population." (5) We should take note of the fact that all the countries with the highest growth rates are in Africa, the Middle East and Asia as well as Central and South America, Mongolia and Malaysia.

It follows that within this uneven distribution of world population and growth is an uneven distribution of wealth as shown in Figure 2 shown below.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Comparing Figures 1 and 2 we see that the countries with the highest growth rates and highest current populations are the ones with the least percent of world GDP. Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Middle East house the poorest people while the developed world, the USA, Canada, and Europe hold the highest per capita percentage of net worth. (67) It's an unfortunate fact that these inequities are on a growing curve with the span becoming ever wider. Amongst the wealthy, measured in local currencies, the total in 2006 grew by 7.5 percent to reach $97.9 trillion, this being the fifth consecutive year of expanding wealth. Paralleling this growth in population and the wealth-poor divide is an ever growing list of countries suffering poverty and poor governance.

Evidence for the Concern about Climate Change (8)

Today scientific methods, both inductive, deductive and falsifiable lead to the conclusion that the earth's global climate is changing as a result of human activity. There is a strong consilience of evidence through both instrumental and proxy records to support these conclusions. Furthermore, the predicted effects are now being observed by measurements. All available evidence points towards the role that human activities have lead to the change with that inference being the best explanation for what is being observed. All the best scientific community standards have been upheld in making the measurements, the modeling and in reaching the conclusions and we can only conclude that the best explanation for what is being observed is the human induced change of climate.

The Current Climate Situation

The 4th Assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (9) states that the rate of mean temperature increase in the last 50 years is twice the 100-year mean increase of 0.74[degrees]C [+ or -] 0.18[degrees]C. It is reported that land regions have warmed faster than oceans, which was expected due to the difference in heat capacity between the air and water. However, at the water's surface, sea surface temperatures have shown a strong warming trend also. As was predicted by our climate modeling results, average Arctic air temperatures increased at twice the rate of the global average. And consistent with our understanding of the greenhouse effect, lower stratospheric temperatures have been observed to cool since 1970.

Coupling with these temperature changes have also been observed changes in the hydrologic cycle. Precipitation has increased poleward from 30[degrees]N latitude from 1900-2005, while a decrease in precipitation has dominated in the tropics. Consistent with this trend, droughts have been more common in the tropics and subtropics, especially since 1970. …

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