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UN report warns of threat to human progress from climate change

Climate change is already affecting our lives and the places we live, and has the potential to dramatically impact the lives of future generations. Have you got any idea on how climate change is changing our lives? Can you give us any examples?

I’ve selected two short videos for you:

Ater watching them, do you think it’s feasible to fight against climate change? What can you do to help?

Now, let’s read an article about this subject taken from The Guardian:

UN report warns of threat to human progress from climate change

Human development report says inaction on climate change puts at risk decades of progress on education and health
java, indonesia

Java, Indonesia

The United Nations warned today that a continued failure to tackle climate change was putting at risk decades of progress in improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.

In its annual flagship report on the state of the world, the UN said unsustainable patterns of consumption and production posed the biggest challenge to the anti-poverty drive.

“For human development to become truly sustainable, the close link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions needs to be severed,” the UN said in its annual human development report (HDR).

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the HDR said the past two decades had seen “substantial progress” in human development despite the impact of the financial crisis, which had resulted in 34 million people losing their jobs and an additional 64 million people dropping below the $1.25 a day income poverty threshold.

“Most people are healthier, live longer, are more educated and have more access to goods and services. Even in countries facing adverse economic conditions, people’s health and education have greatly improved.”

The HDR assesses progress by using three main measures of well-being – income, life expectancy and education – to compile a human development index (HDI). Since the early 1990s, the HDI has increased by 18%, with only three countries – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe – having lower human development than 20 years ago.

“There has been massive progress over time if you look beyond income to education and health,” said Jeni Klugman, director of the Human Development Report office. “On empowerment, it is a positive story as the number of people living in democracies is up. On the equality side the story is less good.”

Klugman pointed to positive developments in countries such as Nepal, where infant mortality has come down from shockingly high levels, and Ethiopia where access to schooling has shot up. Other African countries that have seen significant improvements in the Human Development Index included Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda.

But Klugman warned of the dangers posed by climate change. “There are risks and threats. Climate change is the big one and it could derail progress. That’s why the 2011 report will look at the issue of sustainability.”

The UN said that on one estimate, the adverse effects of climate change on grain yields would push prices up, more than doubling the price of wheat. In a worst case scenario, the report added, by 2050 per capita consumption of cereals would fall by a fifth, leaving 25 million additional children malnourished, with South Asia the worst affected.

“Climate change may be the single factor that makes the future very different, impeding the continuing progress in human development that history would lead us to expect. While international agreements have been difficult to achieve and policy responses have been generally slow, the broad consensus is clear: climate change is happening, and it can derail human development.

Overall, the UN said poor countries had been closing the human development gap with rich countries over the past two decades, particularly in health and education. The countries reporting the slowest progress were those in sub-Saharan Africa struck by the HIV epidemic and parts of the former Soviet Union suffering increased adult mortality.

The UN said it was striking that the top 10 list of fast improvers contained several countries not typically described as top performers – such as Morocco and Algeria. Ethiopia came 11th, with three other sub-Saharan African countries (Botswana, Benin and Bukina Faso) in the top 25.

Over the past 40 years, a quarter of developing countries saw their HDI increase less than 20%, another quarter more than 65%. The UN said that half of this disparity was the result of different starting points, but added that countries with “similar starting points experience remarkably different evolutions, suggesting that country factors such as policies, institutions and geography are important”.

Asia’s fastest growing economies – China, Indonesia and South Korea – were among the countries that had showed the greatest progress in improving their HDI, but the UN said the top 10 also included Nepal, Oman and Tunisia where progress in the non-income dimensions of human development had been equally remarkable.

“The divide between developed and developing countries persists: a small subset of countries has remained at the top of the world income distribution, and only a handful of countries that started out poor have joined that high-income group”, the report said. “The gap in human development across the world, while narrowing, remains huge.”

Championing the role of governments in human development, the report said that markets were generally “very bad at ensuring the provision of public goods, such as security, stability, health and education.

“For example, firms that produce cheap labour-intensive goods or that exploit natural resources may not want a more educated workforce and may care little about their workers’ health if there is an abundant pool of labour. Without complementary societal and state action, markets can be weak on environmental sustainability, creating the conditions for environmental degradation, even for such disasters as mud flows in Java and oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Vocabulary:

  • Feasible: possible;
  • Flagship: the most important;
  • Beyond: further along or away;
  • Threshold: limit, margin;
  • Empowerment: the giving or delegation of power or authority; authorization;
  • Shot up: (phrasal verb) to increase dramatically in amount;
  • Derail: prevent, stop, block;
  • Yields: production;
  • Malnourished: affected by improper nutrition or an insufficient diet;
  • Remarkable: worthy of attention;
  • Championing: supporting, defending;

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2010/nov/04/united-nations-human-development-report

A little grammar: Superlative.

In my last post, The indispensable economy?, I showed you how to form and use the superlative. In the article above, we can find some more examples of the superlative forms. Here they are:

  • “The United Nations warned today that a continued failure to tackle climate change was putting at risk decades of progress in improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.”;
  • “the UN said unsustainable patterns of consumption and production posed the biggest challenge to the anti-poverty drive.”;
  • “In a worst case scenario, the report added, by 2050 per capita consumption of cereals would fall by a fifth, leaving 25 million additional children malnourished, with South Asia the worst affected.”;
  • “The countries reporting the slowest progress were those in sub-Saharan Africa struck by the HIV epidemic and parts of the former Soviet Union suffering increased adult mortality.”;
  • “Asia’s fastest growing economies – China, Indonesia and South Korea – were among the countries that had showed the greatest progress in improving their HDI…”

Are you able to make more sentences using the superlative forms within the context presented in this article? Tell them to you teacher or write them in the comment box below.

Extreme Heat puts Coral Reefs at Risk

This year’s extreme heat is putting the world’s coral reefs under such severe stress that scientists fear widespread die-offs, endangering not only the richest ecosystems in the ocean but also associated fisheries that feed millions of people.

Bleached coral with algae beginning to grow.

Bleached coral with algae beginning to grow.

From Thailand to Texas, corals are reacting to the heat stress by bleaching, or shedding their color and going into survival mode. Many have already died, and more are expected to do so in coming months. Computer forecasts of water temperature suggest that corals in the Caribbean may undergo drastic bleaching in the next few weeks.

What is unfolding this year is only the second known global bleaching of coral reefs. Scientists are holding out hope that this year will not be as bad, over all, as 1998, the hottest year in the historical record, when an estimated 16 percent of the world’s shallow-water reefs died. But in some places, including Thailand, the situation is looking worse than in 1998.

Scientists say the trouble with the reefs is linked to climate change. For years they have warned that corals, highly sensitive to excess heat, would serve as an early indicator of the ecological distress on the planet caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first eight months of 2010 matched 1998 as the hottest January to August period on record. High ocean temperatures are taxing the organisms most sensitive to them, the shallow-water corals that create some of the world’s most vibrant and colorful seascapes.

Coral reefs occupy a tiny fraction of the ocean, but they harbor perhaps a quarter of all marine species, including a profusion of fish. Often called the “rain forests of the sea,” they are the foundation not only of important fishing industries but also of tourist economies worth billions.

Coral reefs are made up of millions of tiny animals, called polyps, that form symbiotic relationships with algae. The polyps essentially act as farmers, supplying the algae with nutrients and a place to live. The algae in turn capture sunlight and carbon dioxide to make sugars that feed the coral polyps.

The captive algae give reefs their brilliant colors. Many reef fish sport fantastical colors and patterns themselves, as though dressing to match their surroundings.

Coral bleaching occurs when high heat and bright sunshine cause the metabolism of the algae to speed out of control, and they start creating toxins. The polyps essentially recoil. “The algae are spat out,” Dr. Wilkinson said.

In dozens of small island nations and in some coastal areas of Indonesia and the Philippines, people are heavily dependent on reef fish as a source of protein. The death of corals is not immediately lethal to the fish, but if the coral polyps do not recover, scientists say the reef can eventually collapse, and the associated fishery will become far less productive.

Vocabulary

to die-off– to disappear, become extinct

bleach– remove color, lighten

shed– discard, get rid of

undergo– experience, endure

unfold– develop, happen

hold out– extend, maintain

shallow– low, not deep

profusion– abundance, excess

to be made up of– to consist of

in turn– as a result

sport- (as a verb) use, wear, show

recoil- withdraw, move back

collapse- fail, end, disintegrate

Questions

  1. Why is it important to keep coral reefs healthy? What is at risk?
  2. Is this a serious sign of climate change? Should we start changing the way we live because of this, or do you think there are more important reasons to change?
  3. Do you think coral reefs are worth keeping? Or can the ocean survive without them?
  4. Have you ever seen a coral reef? What did you think of it?

By JUSTIN GILLIS

Published: September 20, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/science/earth/21coral.html?_r=1&hp

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