2011 Human Development Report: Progress That May Not Hold

The UN has released the 2011 Human Development Report, and it has a theme that is often ignored in international development documents: we can go backward. In this case, the Human Development Report warns that the impact of climate change could mean that all the progress we’ve made could vanish by mid-century, since “people in the poorest countries are disproportionately at risk from climate-driven disasters such as drought and flooding and exposure to air and water pollution.”

The report looks at sustainability and equity. It finds that human development has been deeply unequal within countries, which puts the long term effect of these gains at risk. It also takes a very interesting approach to carbon emissions, particularly about electricity. The report argues that electricity can be provided to the 1.5 billion people who don’t have it, “with investments of about one-eighth of the amount currently spent on fossils fuel subsidies, estimated at US$312 billion worldwide,” and without substantial increases in carbon emissions.

Finally, it finds that in an “‘environmental disaster’ situation—with vast deforestation, dramatic biodiversity declines and increasingly extreme weather—the global HDI would fall 15 percent below the baseline projection for 2050, with the deepest losses in the poorest regions.”

To poke around in the report itself, you can go to the UNDP Human Development Report website. They’re also hosting a live twitter chat about the report, and a live webcast to launch it.