Follow Countercurrents on Twitter 


Support Us

Popularise CC

Join News Letter




Editor's Picks

Press Releases

Action Alert

Feed Burner

Read CC In Your
Own Language

Bradley Manning

India Burning

Mumbai Terror

Financial Crisis


AfPak War

Peak Oil



Alternative Energy

Climate Change

US Imperialism

US Elections


Latin America









Book Review

Gujarat Pogrom

Kandhamal Violence


India Elections



Submission Policy

About Us


Fair Use Notice

Contact Us

Search Our Archive


Our Site


Subscribe To Our
News Letter

Name: E-mail:


Printer Friendly Version

Without Urgent Environmental Action Extreme Poor Could Rise To 3 Billion

By Countercurrents.org

15 March 2013

The number of people living in extreme poverty could increase by up to 3 billion by 2050 unless urgent action is taken to tackle environmental challenges, a major UN report warned on March 14, 2013. Claire Provost reported [1]:

The 2013 Human Development Report hails better than expected progress on health, wealth and education in dozens of developing countries but says inaction on climate change, deforestation, and air and water pollution could end gains in the poorest countries and communities.

"Environmental threats are among the most grave impediments to lifting human development … The longer action is delayed, the higher the cost will be," warns the report, which builds on the 2011 edition looking at sustainable development.

"Environmental inaction, especially regarding climate change, has the potential to halt or even reverse human development progress. The number of people in extreme poverty could increase by up to 3 billion by 2050 unless environmental disasters are averted by co-ordinated global action," said the UNDP.

"Far more attention needs to be paid to the impact human beings are having on the environment. Climate change is already exacerbating chronic environmental threats, and ecosystem losses are constraining livelihood opportunities, especially for poor people. A clean and safe environment should be seen as a right, not a privilege."

The proportion of people living under $1.25 a day is estimated to have fallen from 43% in 1990 to 22% in 2008, driven in part by significant progress in China. As a result, the World Bank last year said the millennium development goal to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015 had been met ahead of schedule.

The report says more than 40 countries have done better than previously expected on the UN's human development index (HDI), which combines measures of health, wealth and education, with gains accelerating over the past decade.

Norway and Australia are highest in this year's HDI, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger are ranked lowest.

Some of the largest countries – including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey – have made the most rapid advances, it says, but there has also been substantial progress in smaller economies, such as Bangladesh, Chile, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda and Tunisia.

This has prompted significant rethinking on routes to progress, says the report: "The south as a whole is driving global economic growth and societal change for the first time in centuries."

The report points to cash-transfer programs in Brazil, India and Mexico as examples of where developing countries have pioneered policies for advancing human development, noting how these efforts have helped narrow income gaps and improve the health and education prospects of poor communities. The presence of proactive "developmental states", which seek to take strategic advantage of world trade opportunities but also invest heavily in health, education and other critical services, emerges as a key trend.

The rise of China and India, which doubled their per capita economic output in fewer than 20 years, has driven an epochal "global rebalancing", argues the report, bringing about greater change and lifting far more people out of poverty than the Industrial Revolution that transformed Europe and North America in the 18th and 19th centuries. "The Industrial Revolution was a story of perhaps 100 million people, but this is a story about billions of people," said Khalid Malik, lead author of the report.

The report singles out "short-sighted austerity measures", inaction in the face of stark social inequalities, and the lack of opportunities for citizen participation as critical threats to progress – both in developing countries and in European and North American industrial powers. "Social policy is at least as important as economic policy," Malik told the Guardian. "People think normally you're too poor to afford these things. But our argument is you're too poor not to."

He said more representative global institutions are needed to tackle shared global challenges. China, with the world's second largest economy and biggest foreign exchange reserves, has only a 3.3% share in the World Bank, notes the report, less than France's 4.3%. Africa, with a billion people in 54 nations, is under-represented in almost all international institutions. "If institutions are not seen as legitimate, people don't play, or don't play nice," Malik said.

Developing countries now hold two-thirds of the world's $10.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, including more than $3tn in China alone, and nearly three-quarters of the $4.3tn in assets controlled by sovereign wealth funds worldwide, notes the report, adding: "Even a small share of these vast sums could have a swift measurable impact on global poverty and human development."

An AFP report said:

China and India doubled their per capita economic output in less than 20 years, a rate twice as fast as Europe and North America experienced during the Industrial Revolution.

The proportion of people living in extreme poverty worldwide fell from 43 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2008, with more than 500,000 million people rising above the poverty line in China alone.

The Rise of the South

A release by the UNDP said [2]:

The UNDP report – "The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World" was launched on March 14, 2013 in Mexico City by President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. The report examines the profound shift in global dynamics driven by the fast-rising new powers of the developing world and its long-term implications for human development.

China has already overtaken Japan as the worlds second biggest economy while lifting hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty. India is reshaping its future with new entrepreneurial creativity and social policy innovation. Brazil is lifting its living standards through expanding international relationships and antipoverty programs that are emulated worldwide.

But the "Rise of the South" analyzed in the report is a much larger phenomenon: Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, South Africa, Indonesia and many other developing nations are also becoming leading actors on the world stage.

The report identifies more than 40 countries in the developing world that have done better than had been expected in human development terms in recent decades, with their progress accelerating markedly over the past ten years.

The UNDP report analyzes the causes and consequences of these countries achievements and the challenges that they face today and in the coming decades.

Each of these countries has its own unique history and has chosen its own distinct development pathway. Yet they share important characteristics and face many of the same challenges. They are also increasingly interconnected and interdependent. And people throughout the developing world are increasingly demanding to be heard, as they share ideas through new communications channels and seek greater accountability from governments and international institutions.

The report identifies policies rooted in this new global reality that could promote greater progress throughout the world for decades to come.

The report calls for far better representation of the South in global governance systems and points to potential new sources of financing within the South for essential public goods. With fresh analytical insights and clear proposals for policy reforms, the Report helps chart a course for people in all regions to face shared human development challenges together, fairly and effectively.

Failure to fight climate crisis could reverse developing countries' gains in cutting poverty, says UNDP

The rise of developing nations has cut poverty while the combined economies of Brazil, China and India are on a path to overtake wealthy nations, but failure to act on climate change could reverse those gains, said the latest edition of Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on March 14, 2013 [3].

Developing nations are now driving economic growth, helping to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and bringing billions more into a new middle class, said the report.

The report sees a “dramatic rebalancing of global economic power” and forecasts that the combined economic output of Brazil, China and India will surpass the aggregate production of the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Italy by 2020. “The rise of the South is unprecedented in its speed and scale,” the report said.

“Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast,” said the report presented in Mexico City.

But the South faces similar long-term challenges as the leading industrialized nations, from an aging population to environmental pressures and social inequalities. Lack of action against climate change could even halt or reverse human development progress in the world’s poorest countries, pushing up to three billion people into extreme poverty by 2050 unless environmental disasters are prevented, the report said.

Irreversible melting of the Canadian glaciers

At the same time, Geophysical Research Letters study said ice melt in Canada’s glaciers would be irreversible for the foreseeable future.

Raveena Aulakh reported [4]:

Canada’s glaciers are heading for a likely irreversible melt that will push up sea levels, a new study shows.

As much as 20 percent of glacier ice in the Canadian Arctic could vanish by the end of this century; it would add 3.5 centimeters to sea levels.

“We believe the mass loss is irreversible in the foreseeable future,” wrote authors of the study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The Canadian Arctic is the world’s third largest store of glacier ice after Greenland and Antarctica — about 155,000 square kilometers of ice spread across 36,000 islands.

Using computer models, scientists in Netherlands and the U.S. demonstrated how glaciers would respond to future climate change: they say it is “highly likely” the ice is going to melt at an alarming rate even if global warming slows down.

The projection of a 20 percent loss is based on a scenario in which world temperatures will rise by 3C this century and by 8C in the Canadian Arctic due to global warming. It is consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s projections.

The scientists calculated that by 2100, when the Arctic is eight degrees Celsius warmer, the rate of ice loss will be a whopping 144 gigatons per year, up from the present rate of 92 gigatons. One gigaton is one billion metric tonnes.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) summer melts on the Arctic ice sheet have recently been breaking records and once the glaciers are gone, they are unlikely to make a comeback.

A complete melt of the glaciers would take many centuries but climate change is warming the Arctic faster than the global average.

In September 2012, scientists revealed that sea ice in the Arctic had shrunk to its smallest extent ever recorded. Frozen sea had decreased to about 3.5 million square kilometers — less than half what it was just four decades ago.

Glaciers in the Canadian Arctic are not studied as much as the ice in Alaska and Russia.

“Most attention goes out to Greenland and Antarctica which is understandable because they are the two largest ice bodies in the world,” Michiel van den Broeke, a co-author of the study at Utrecht University, told Reuters.

Canadian ice should also be included in calculations, he said.

Observations from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites show that this massive sheet of ice shed approximately 580 gigatons.

Japan’s action plan on climate crisis

Chisaki Watanabe reported [5]:

Japan plans to compile an action program to tackle climate change with a new greenhouse gas emissions target.

The government aims to put together the action plan before U.N. climate talks to be held in Poland in November, Kentaro Doi, an official at the Ministry of the Environment in charge of climate change, said on March 15, 2013.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which took power in late December, is currently reviewing energy and climate change policy.

A statement said, the new action plan will map out measures to achieve a new emissions target.

UNDP praises Cuba’s climate action initiatives

A Havana datelined Xinhua report carried by chinadaily.com [6] said:

Cuba was among the world's best prepared countries to meet the challenges of climate change, Grisel Acosta, regional representative of the UNDP said on March 14, 2013.

Speaking to local reporters, Acosta said Cuba had implemented climate change programs in various sectors and periodically evaluated their progress.

Acosta praised Cuba's conservation program, where biodiversity is preserved through people's interaction with their environment.

The conservation mechanisms are essential to addressing coastal flooding, rising sea levels, increased rainfall, damage to mangrove swamp ecosystems, beaches and coral reefs, as well as general environmental vulnerability.

To mitigate the impact of climate change and natural disasters, Cuba has in place 15 projects, starting at the local level, related to the integral management of coastal zones.

Cuban researchers have found climate change may increase desertification and diminish water supplies on the Caribbean island. It might also push Cuba's southern coastline inland by 7 kms, which would affect coastal communities, pollute freshwater sources and decrease or even wipe out certain species and wetlands.


[1] guardian.co.uk, March 14 2013, “Environmental threats could push billions into extreme poverty, warns UN”,

[2] http://hdr.undp.org/en/mediacentre/humandevelopmentreportpresskits/2013report/

[3] An AFP report carried by THE RAW STORY, March 14, 2013, “United Nations: Developing countries imperiled by climate change”,

[4] thestar.com, March 14 2013, “Canadian glacier ice melt will push up sea levels: Study”,

[5] March 15, 2013 “Japan to Compile Climate Change Action Plan With Emission Target”,

[6] 2013-03-15, “UNDP praises Cuba's climate change program”,




Comments are moderated