IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

9.7 Conclusion: links between climate change and sustainable development

African people and the environment have always battled the vagaries of weather and climate (see Section 9.2.1). These struggles, however, are increasingly waged alongside a range of other stresses, such as HIV/AIDS, conflict and land struggles (see Section 9.2.2). Despite good economic growth in some countries and sectors in Africa (OECD, 2004/2005), large inequalities still persist, and some sources suggest that hopes of reaching the MDGs by 2015 are slipping (UNDP, 2005). While climate change may not have featured directly in the setting of the MDGs, it is clear from the evidence presented here that climate change and variability may be an additional impediment to achieving them (Table 9.3; Thornton et al., 2006).

Table 9.3. Potential impacts of climate change on the Millennium Development Goals (after AfDB et al., 2002; Thornton et al., 2006).

Millennium Development Goals: climate change as a cross-cutting issue 
Potential impacts  Millennium Development Goal* 
Climate Change (CC) may reduce poor people’s livelihood assets, for example health, access to water, homes and infrastructure. It may also alter the path and rate of economic growth due to changes in natural systems and resources, infrastructure and labour productivity. A reduction in economic growth directly impacts poverty through reduced income opportunities. In addition to CC, expected impacts on regional food security are likely, particularly in Africa, where food security is expected to worsen (see Sections 9.4.1, 9.4.3, 9.4.4 and 9.4.8). Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (Goal 1
Climate change is likely to directly impact children and pregnant women because they are particularly susceptible to vector- and water-borne diseases, e.g., malaria is currently responsible for a quarter of maternal mortality. Other expected impacts include:
  • increased heat-related mortality and illness associated with heatwaves (which may be balanced by less winter-cold-related deaths in some countries);
  • increased prevalence of some vector-borne diseases (e.g., malaria, dengue fever), and vulnerability to water, food or person-to-person diseases (e.g. cholera, dysentery) (see Section 9.4.3);
  • declining quantity and quality of drinking water, which worsens malnutrition, since it is a prerequisite for good health;
  • reduced natural resource productivity and threatened food security, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa (see Sections 9.4.3, 9.4.3, 9.4.4, 9.6.1).
Health-related goals:
  • reduce infant mortality (Goal 4);
  • improve maternal health (Goal 5);
  • combat major diseases (Goal 6).
Direct impacts:
  • Climate change may alter the quality and productivity of natural resources and ecosystems, some of which may be irreversibly damaged, and these changes may also decrease biological diversity and compound existing environmental degradation (see Section 9.4.4).
  • Climate change would alter the ecosystem-human interfaces and interactions that may lead to loss of biodiversity and hence erode the basic support systems for the livelihood of many people in Africa (see Section 9.4, Table 9.1 and Chapter 4).
Ensure environmental sustainability (Goal 7
Indirect impacts: links to climate change include:
  • Loss of livelihood assets (natural, health, financial and physical capital) may reduce opportunities for full time education in numerous ways.
  • Natural disasters and drought reduce children’s available time (which may be diverted to household tasks), while displacement and migration can reduce access to education opportunities (see Sections 9.2.1 and 9.2.2).
Achieve universal primary education (Goal 2
One of the expected impacts of climate change is that it could exacerbate current gender inequalities, through impacting on the natural resource base, leading to decreasing agricultural productivity. This may place additional burdens on women’s health, and reduce time available to participate in decision-making and for practicing income-generation activities. Climate-related disasters have been found to impact female-headed households, particularly where they have fewer assets (see Section 9.7.1, Table 9.2). Promote gender equality and empower women (Goal 3
Global climate change is a global issue, and responses require global co-operation, especially to help developing countries adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. Global partnerships (Goal 8

* The order in which the Millennium Development Goals are listed here places the goals that could be directly impacted first, followed by those that are indirectly impacted.

Although future climate change seems to be marginally important when compared to other development issues (Davidson et al., 2003), it is clear that climate change and variability, and associated increased disaster risks, will seriously hamper future development. On an annual basis, for example, developing countries have already absorbed US$35 billion in direct losses from natural disasters (Mirza, 2003). However, these figures do not include livelihood assets and losses and overall emotional and other stresses that are often more difficult to assess. A challenge, therefore, is to shape and manage development that also builds resilience to shocks, including those related to climate change and variability (Davidson et al., 2003; Adger et al., 2004).