Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report

Other reports in this collection

Question 8

What is known about the interactions between projected human-induced changes in climate and other environmental issues (e.g., urban air pollution, regional acid deposition, loss of biological diversity, stratospheric ozone depletion, and desertification and land degradation)? What is known about environmental, social, and economic costs and benefits and implications of these interactions for integrating climate change response strategies in an equitable manner into broad sustainable development strategies at the local, regional, and global scales?


Local, regional, and global environmental issues are inextricably linked and affect sustainable development. Therefore, there are synergistic opportunities to develop more effective response options to these environmental issues that enhance benefits, reduce costs, and more sustainably meet human needs.


Meeting human needs in many instances is causing environmental degradation, which in turn threatens the ability to meet present and future needs. For example, increased agricultural production can be achieved through increased use of nitrogenous fertilizers, irrigation, or the conversion of natural grasslands and forests to croplands. However, these changes can affect the Earth's climate through the release of greenhouse gases, lead to land degradation through erosion and salinization of soils, and contribute to the loss of biodiversity and reduction of carbon sequestration through the conversion and fragmentation of natural ecological systems. Agricultural productivity can in turn be adversely affected by changes in climate, especially in the tropics and subtropics, loss of biodiversity and changes at the genetic and species level, and land degradation through loss of soil fertility. Many of these changes adversely affect food security and disproportionately impact the poor.

Q8.3 & Q8.15

The primary factors underlying anthropogenic climate change are similar to those for most environmental and socio-economic issues -- that is, economic growth, broad technological changes, life style patterns, demographic shifts (population size, age structure, and migration), and governance structures. These can give rise to:

  • Increased demand for natural resources and energy
  • Market imperfections, including subsidies that lead to the inefficient use of resources and act as a barrier to the market penetration of environmentally sound technologies; the lack of recognition of the true value of natural resources; failure to appropriate for the global values of natural resources at the local level; and failure to internalize the costs of environmental degradation into the market price of a resource
  • Limited availability and transfer of technology, inefficient use of technologies, and inadequate investment in research and development for the technologies of the future
  • Failure to manage adequately the use of natural resources and energy.
Climate change affects environmental issues such as loss of biodiversity, desertification, stratospheric ozone depletion, freshwater availability, and air quality, and in turn climate change is affected by many of these issues.  For example, climate change is projected to exacerbate local and regional air pollution and delay the recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer. In addition, climate change could also affect the productivity and composition of terrestrial and aquatic ecological systems, with a potential loss in both genetic and species diversity; could accelerate the rate of land degradation; and could exacerbate problems related to freshwater quantity and quality in many areas. Conversely, local and regional air pollution, stratospheric ozone depletion, changes in ecological systems, and land degradation would affect the Earth's climate by changing the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, radiative balance of the atmosphere, and surface albedo. Q8.5-20

The linkages among local, regional, and global environmental issues, and their relationship to meeting human needs, offer opportunities to capture synergies in developing response options and reducing vulnerabilities to climate change, although trade-offs between issues may exist. Multiple environmental and development goals can be achieved by adopting a broad range of technologies, policies, and measures that explicitly recognize the inextricable linkages among environmental problems and human needs. Addressing the need for energy, while reducing local and regional air pollution and global climate change cost-effectively, requires an interdisciplinary assessment of the synergies and trade-offs of meeting energy requirements in the most economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable manner. Greenhouse gas emissions, as well as local and regional pollutants, could be reduced through more efficient use of energy and increasing the share of lower carbon-emitting fossil fuels, advanced fossil-fuel technologies (e.g., highly efficient combined cycle gas turbines, fuel cells, and combined heat and power) and renewable energy technologies (e.g., increased use of environmentally sound biofuels, hydropower, solar, wind- and wave-power). Further, the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere can be reduced also by enhanced uptake of carbon through, for example, afforestation, reforestation, slowing deforestation, and improved forest, rangeland, wetland, and cropland management, which can have favorable effects on biodiversity, food production, land, and water resources. Reducing vulnerability to climate change can often reduce vulnerability to other environmental stresses and vice versa. In some cases there will be trade-offs. For example, in some implementations, monoculture plantations could decrease local biodiversity.

The capacity of countries to adapt and mitigate can be enhanced when climate policies are integrated with national development policies including economic, social, and other environmental dimensions. Climate mitigation and adaptation options can yield ancillary benefits that meet human needs, improve well-being, and bring other environmental benefits. Countries with limited economic resources and low level of technology are often highly vulnerable to climate change and other environmental problems. Q8.26-27
A great deal of interaction exists among the environmental issues that multilateral environmental agreements address, and synergies can be exploited in their implementation. Global environmental problems are addressed in a range of individual conventions and agreements, as well as a range of regional agreements. They may contain, inter alia, matters of common interest and similar requirements for enacting general objectives -- for example, implementation plans, data collection and processing, strengthening human and infrastructural capacity, and reporting obligations. For example, although different, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are scientifically interrelated because many of the compounds that cause depletion of the ozone layer are also important greenhouse gases and because some of the substitutes for the now banned ozone-depleting substances are greenhouse gases. Q8.11 & Q8.28

Other reports in this collection

IPCC Homepage