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Posts tagged "united nations"

Wealthy nations pledged billions to help the poor adapt to climate change. Where did it all go?

What does this climate aid actually look like? Where has it all gone so far? And are wealthy nations really going to put up $100 billion per year in climate finance in the years to come? Here’s a breakdown:

—2010-2012: The first $35 billion in climate aid. Between 2010 and 2012, the world’s wealthy nations say they provided $35 billion to help poorer countries adjust to climate change, as promised at Copenhagen. (You can see a full breakdown of these pledges from the World Resources Institute here.)

The vast majority of that aid — $27 billion — came from five countries: Germany, Japan, Norway, Britain, and the United States. And most of it went toward clean energy, efficiency, and other mitigation projects around the world. Only a small slice, about $5 billion, went toward helping poor countries prepare for the actual impacts of climate change, like droughts or heat waves.

For instance, Norway gave Brazil $1 billion to help prevent deforestation. The United States gave the Congo Basin $15.7 million to preserve rain forest biodiversity. Japan gave Egypt a $338 million loan for wind power. Via WaPo
Okay, I'm reading the Schalatek_Burns_GCF_Gender-Sensitive-Approach pdf and I'm still wondering how climate change is gender specfic. the '1% of the world property' is bugging me, and the rest of the report is reminding me of the 'women are more negatively affected by war/conscription than men are'.
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hey sosungalittleclodofclay

Good question regarding this post on gender and climate change. At minimum, natural disasters kill more women and girls than men. Social status and education are key issues to resolve in poor countries that are growing fast.

Start with this short report, Gender and Climate Change, from WHO.

Globally, natural disasters such as droughts, floods and storms kill more women than men, and tend to kill women at a younger age. These effects also interact with the nature of the event and social status.

The gender-gap effects on life expectancy tend to be greater in more severe disasters, and in places where the socioeconomic status of women is particularly low. 

Other climate-sensitive health impacts, such as undernutrition and malaria, also show important gender differences. 

Gender differences occur in health risks that are directly associated with meteorological hazards. These differences reflect a combined effect of physiological, behavioural and socially constructed influences. For example, the majority of European studies have shown that women are more at risk, in both relative and absolute terms, of dying in heatwaves. 

Then, if you’re still interested, visit Gender CC, a division of the UNFCCC, to explore the issues in depth.



Asker theresamarg Asks:
Hey! I'm a high school senior writing a paper for government and chose to write about the Environment. I'm pretty passionate about it, wanting to become an environmental engineer. I have already cited you a few times, but was wondering if you had any helpful thoughts on the U.S. vs the U.N. as far as future protection laws concern... Or anything you think is worth adding to my paper! Thank you so much! I really look up to you and love your blog! Have a nice day! :)
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hi Theresa,

Thanks for your nice note! :D

Sounds like a very good paper. And quite challenging. I don’t know your background, so it’s hard for me to know what advice to give you.

The major difference between U.S. and UN environmental protection is that the UN does not make formal “laws.” This is an important thing to grasp as you shape your paper.


  • US vs UN environmental law
  • How does the UN enforce treaties

I presume (again, I don’t know) that you’ll write a bit comparing the two, side-by-side. The U.S. is one country, with citizens and land. The UN is not a country, has no residents, no borders, and contains no lands. The U.S. federal and state governments are allowed to make law. The UN is not allowed to make any laws.

There are some minor exceptions.

First, core to the UN’s mission is to encourage its 193 members to create and enforce their own laws based primarily on human rights. These laws are enforced at the country level, and in no way can the UN intervene on enforcement of these laws (with the exception of war and conflict, where members vote on intervention or humanitarian aid).

The second exception is the International Court of Justice(ICJ), which is a very weak system that basically adjudicates the criminal acts of the highest leaders of individual countries. You can read about the process, here. Note that it encourages disputing parties to take it to their home lands.

The ICJ usually deals with human rights, genocide, and war crimes. It seldom enforces international treaty violations, and rarely enforces environmental treaties (mostly because violators are easily identified and their home countries and the polluted territories have jurisdiction).

So, basically, the ICJ tries hard to push any dispute back to the country level.

When that fails, then several special panels hold a series of votes to help decide jurisdiction, applicable procedural rules, and possible alternatives (usually there are alternatives).

The third exception is when the UN has to sue itself! That is a big hot mess, and I’d avoid writing about it like the plague. (If you must, go here.)

I’m being very generic, and I’m sure I’ll get a blistering message from some of my keen-eyed readers, but you get the point I hope!

This is all to say that the UN has no formally recognized environmental law jurisdiction (in fact, the UN attempted to create an environmental court, called the Environmental Chamber. But no country brought a single case during the Chamber’s 13 years of existence. It was dissolved in 2006. For the history of the Environmental Chamber, see: here).

Again, I’m being very general here. You’re more than welcome to contact me via email if you have more specific questions.



In a confusing Press Release, the United Nations urges countries to protect AND develop the Arctic as glaciers and ice melt. On the one hand, the PR urges stronger legal and environmental regulations. On the other, it urges northern countries to cooperate as they exploit the Arctic’s vast resources of oil, gas, minerals, and fish: “the Arctic Council …is formed by Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US has a crucial role to play in ensuring any resource exploitation is done responsibly.”

Confused? Yeah, me too…

Via United Nations

This is result of a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperatures. The chart is from the World Bank and it shows the rate of melting ice from 1983 to 2012. The temperature across the world is expected to rise by nearly 4 degrees Celsius, which greatly exceeds the above impacts. 


Turn Down the Heat, a new report from the World Bank, presents the many compelling reasons why we need to avoid a 4 degree Celsius temperature increase (the trajectory we are currently on to reach by the end of this century.)

This troubling graphic from the NSIDC shows just how quickly climate change has already taken a toll on arctic sea ice since 1983.

But, there are two buckets of trouble here. First is the nearly endless troubles from melting ice on human and natural environments. Mass ice melt causes sea level rise, which destroys coastlines, habitat, deltas, mangroves, coral reefs, and of course cities and tourism.

Melting glaciers will also disrupt the flow of rivers, aquifer recharge, and electricity (hydropower and nuclear power). Many rivers around the world get their water from glaciers, and the same holds for aquifers, which fuel drinking water and irrigation supplies to billions around the world.

Take the glaciers in the Andes mountains for one example. Several have already disappeared, completely melting away. They’re melting faster than scientists predicted, and Peru has asked the United States for emergency funds to build damns to contain the water produced from the last remaining glaciers. The damns, in other words, would store the water rather than glaciers. There are too many to list here, but the effects are enormous. 

The second problem is much simpler, but deeply embarrassing: 4 degree Celsius. Americans do not understand Celsius, they understand (sort of) temperature in terms of Fahrenheit.

Nearly all climate change reporting focuses on 2 to 4 degrees Celsius. We hear it so often from the UN, IPCC, even the US National Climate Assessment quotes Celsius. The problem is that it is not true!

The projected rise in temperatures will vary across the globe. Temperatures in New England are expected to rise by nearly 6-10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of 2100. But this isn’t the case for the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures are expected to rise by as little as 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, not only is reporting one common number (2 degrees Celsius) confusing for Americans, it’s not even a relevant number. As comical and embarrassing as those facts are, there’s no escaping American Ignorance.

This is a major communications problem that scientists just do not grasp. American’s think in terms of their own communities and regions. New England will not feel the same types of impacts as the Southwest, and the folks in each of these regions think very little of the temperatures elsewhere. (I know, there are a few exceptions).

Why did I bring this Celsius vs Fahrenheit issue up? The United States is the most powerful country in the world (despite our education and health deficiencies). The rest of the world, including the World Bank, which put out the above report on climate, requires U.S. support. Climate change solutions require American support. And if scientists refuse to speak the native language, no one is going to listen…

Do you think in the next few decades we will face some sort of global water crisis? Do you know where I can read more on this? (preferably books or in-depth articles)
climateadaptation climateadaptation Said:

Hey shocking euphoria

Thanks for your note. Yeah, check out research from UNESCO-IHE.

I did a great project with them in the Netherlands this past spring. They’re the world experts on water security and policy issues. Dig around the site, there are many links to partner orgs that do good research on exactly the issue you bring up.

If you really want to dork out, check out the solid book, Water Security: Conflicts, Threats, Policies. If you dare to go heavy, check out: Coastal and Ocean Law, Coastal Management in a Nutshell (excellent!), and/or Coastal Pollution: Effects on Living Resources and Humans.

Let me know if these work…




U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks at a roundtable on global water security at the United Nations in New York, New York on September 25, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Maria Otero serves as the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

I was glad to see more than 200 people in the audience for a discussion on water, peace, and security on the margins of the 67th meetings of the UN General Assembly yesterday. The United States, the European Union, and UN-Water co-sponsored the event, which drew senior representatives from governments, UN agencies, and international financial institutions. Secretary Clinton, whose remarks closed the event, has made water issues a priority in our diplomatic and development efforts, and I have been pleased to lead those efforts for the State Department.

Citing the findings in a recently released United States Intelligence Community Assessment on Global Water Security, Secretary Clinton noted… more »

She’s 17 years old and calls bullshit at the Rio+20. What do you think of this?


Speaking for the world’s 3 billion children: “Are you here to save face? Or are you here to save us?”

From TckTckTck via YouTube:

On Wednesday 20 June, 2012 17-year-old Brittany Trilford of Wellington, New Zealand addressed 130 heads of state at the opening plenary of the Rio+20 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is her speech.


What is Rio+20?

How did we get from 1992 to 2012? What are the countries discussing? Why is this a necessary forum?

The United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe provides this infographic to explain Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference currently happening in Rio de Janeiro.

For more information on this conference visit and


David from Mexico wants to know:

“How can we convince everyone to use energy more efficiently when in many countries people don’t face energy shortages and are wasteful?”

Kim from Liberia asks,

“I’ve just graduated and I’m worried about looking for a job in the midst of the economic recession. What would you say to young people like me just entering the job market?”

View response here

Eric from New York asks:

“Do you believe that there will be a time in the near future where we will have an adequate and available water supply for the entire global community?”

View response here

The United Nations has a straight talk tumblr. Really appreciate their posts.

The numbers tell the story. Over the last twenty years, it is conservatively estimated that disasters have killed 1.3 million people, affected 4.4 billion and resulted in economic losses of $2 trillion.

These are staggering numbers when you consider what it means in terms of missed opportunities, shattered lives, lost housing, schools and health facilities destroyed, cultural losses and roads washed away.

More on the Rio+20 Conference

Infographic from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)

This real PSA from the UN on the year ahead had to be produced by Michael Bay. 

We’re heading into one of the busiest times of the year at the UN. Here’s glimpse of what’s ahead at the UN General Assembly.

Happy International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer Day!


Friday is the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, a chance to remember that what could have destroyed our planet brought the world together. All UN Member States have signed up to the Montreal Protocol and it’s working!