Around the world, people are experiencing both the subtle and stark effects of climate change. Gradually shifting weather patterns, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather events are all clear and devastating evidence of a rapidly changing climate. Climate change threatens our ability to ensure global food security, eradicate poverty, and achieve sustainable development.
U.S. efforts to support other countries’ natural resource management, as well as prevention of and adaptation to climate change, are critical to ensuring adequate food and water supply, sustainable economic growth, and good governance worldwide. These investments promote resilience to environmental shocks and stressors, and enhance the capacities of local and national economies to develop foreign markets for American goods, contributing to U.S. economic objectives. Effective management of these natural resources reduces conflict, contributing to U.S. national security objectives.
Why the United States Should Support Climate and Natural Resource Management
Climate change threatens human life and global ecosystems. In October 2018 the IPPCC issued a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels. It states that global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. This warming will lead to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system.
Conserving natural resources helps meet the world’s growing needs. Global demand for food and water is expected to double in the next 30 years. Climate change has both direct and indirect effects on agricultural productivity including changing rainfall patterns, drought, flooding, and the geographical redistribution of pests and diseases.
Conflict can arise when natural resources are not equitably managed. Forty percent of intrastate conflicts within the past 60 years have been strongly linked to natural resources and competition over natural resources. Food crises and shortages also contribute to a rise in displacement, fueling the global refugee and migrant crisis.
Weak management of natural resources overseas costs American businesses and affects American consumers. Illegal logging in foreign countries costs the U.S. timber industry more than $1 billion annually. The U.S. imports 86% of its seafood; the U.S. government’s support to other countries helps ensure that U.S. consumers can choose high-quality seafood for years to come.
American dollars motivate our partners to pitch in and cause a multiplier effect. The U.S. government has consistently been able to leverage 10 to 40 times the amount of money it invests in conservation and natural resource management from other donors.
Climate change disproportionately impacts the world’s most vulnerable. About three in four poor people live in rural areas, where they depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Decreased water access, limited food sources, and increased competition for resources are often a matter of life and death.
Examples of Current U.S. Programs Addressing Climate Change and Natural Resource Management
Global Environment Facility
With over 4,000 projects in 170 countries, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is the largest single financier of conservation in the world, providing grants in developing countries to protect biodiversity and critical habitats and invest in sustainable management of freshwater, forests, fisheries, agricultural areas, and other natural capital.
Adaptation, Clean Energy, Sustainable Landscapes
Adaptation, clean energy, and sustainable landscape bilateral assistance programs help economically vulnerable communities gain access to secure electricity, prepare for natural disasters, and protect threatened forests and farmlands.
USAID biodiversity programs ensure the livelihoods of millions of people who directly depend on natural resources for their survival and economic growth.
Green Climate Fund
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was established in 2010 by the global community to assist developing countries in reducing carbon emissions and increasing resilience to climate change.
Key Legislation and U.S. Government Policies
UN Paris Climate Agreement
At the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris in December 2015, Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reached a landmark agreement to address climate change by accelerating the actions and investments need to globally reduce carbon to a sustainable amount – a key driving factor in a changing climate. In June 2017, President Trump announced that the U.S. would be pulling out of this historic agreement. The State Department has still been present at subsequent COPs, yet high level leadership is sorely lacking.