Sustainable Development Goals under threat! Report on the impact of climate change on the SDGs

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In September 2023. An alarming report by the World Meteorological Organization, “United in Science,” prepared in cooperation with scientific institutions from around the world, has been released. It turns out that the Sustainable Development Goals are moving dangerously away from realization as a result of intensifying climate change.

At the halfway point of Agenda 2030

The year 2023 marks the temporary halfway point of the goals adopted for 2030. Unfortunately, according to the report, only 15 percent. Of them follows the right course. To keep the global temperature rise at the Paris-set limit of +2°C (ideally 1.5°C) from pre-industrial levels, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent. (or by 45 percent, respectively) over the next seven years. The report indicates that in 2022. Fossil fuel emissions increased by 1 percent. compared to the previous year. Thus, the Sustainable Development Goals are no closer to being achieved.

Prof. In his introduction to the report, WMO Secretary-General Taalas recalls that this year’s July was the hottest month in the history of temperature monitoring. All indications are that 2023 will break this infamous record. It is highly likely that the annual average global temperature will periodically exceed the aforementioned ceiling of +1.5°C over the next 5 years. And the planet is already being plagued by heat waves, fires, torrential rains and deadly cyclones. Between 1970 and 2021, 2 million people lost their lives in recorded 11,778 weather and climate disasters.

Which Sustainable Development Goals are most at risk?

The authors of the report analyze in detail how climate change is disrupting the Sustainable Development Goals. The most vulnerable are identified as:

  • SDG 2, or Zero Hunger – in 2030. Up to 670 million people in the world may suffer from food shortages due to weather extremes;
  • SDG 3, or Good Health and Quality of Life – Climate change, including heat waves, is responsible for many premature deaths;
  • SDG 6, or Clean Water and Sanitation, the growing threat of episodes of flooding and drought;
  • SDG 7, or Clean and Accessible Energy – climate change is destabilizing green energy production and increasing the cost of obtaining it;
  • SDG 11, or Sustainable Cities and Communities, which are threatened by sinkholes, heat waves, water shortages and air pollution;
  • SDG 13, or Climate Action, the positive changes achieved in the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere or biosphere could be wiped out;
  • SDG 14, or Life Under Water – Climate change directly threatens aquatic ecosystems;
  • SDG 17, or the Partnership on Targets – half of the countries do not yet have MHEWS early warning systems.

Scientific advances support the Sustainable Development Goals

In the consensus opinion of the report’s authors, only properly coordinated and dynamic advances in the development of climate science can save us from disaster. We already have unprecedented resources of knowledge and technology – from supercomputers and satellites to artificial intelligence and high-resolution modeling tools. The use of existing ones and the development of new ones will make it possible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals faster and more effectively.

The report points to the potential of climate science to reduce deadly broad-spectrum diseases such as malaria. Early warning systems save lives and property, and help better plan crops, fighting social poverty. Integrated water management takes care of universal access to clean water and sanitation. Scientific advances are also expected to provide global societies with affordable clean energy and change the faces of cities to make them more resilient to climate change. In turn, by deepening our knowledge of ocean processes, we will be better able to protect underwater life.

Recommendations of the report, or how to save the Sustainable Development Goals

Researchers working on the report make a number of concrete proposals to bring reality closer to the aspirations adopted. First and foremost, it calls for filling gaps in the systems for observing and collecting meteorological, climatic and hydrological data. Climate knowledge and technologies should be continuously developed and disseminated to the extent required by the individual Sustainable Development Goals.

In countries with lower GDP, educational activities are proposed to strengthen scientific capacity. Science development is also expected to take into account the local context and traditional knowledge of indigenous communities, engaging citizens in action and fostering a demand-driven approach to innovation. The final also emphasizes the need to involve scientists, the private sector, civil society, youth, local governments, etc. to improve the effectiveness of weather, climate and water science.

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