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Climate Change With 8 Billion Humans

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Source: United Nations Population Division.Opinion by Joseph Chamie (portland, usa)Tuesday, November 23, 2021Inter Press Service

Government leaders at COP26, for example, did not address limiting the global demand for energy, water, food, housing, land, resources, material goods, machinery, transportation, etc. by reducing the growth of their respective human populations. By and large, the officials as well as their economic advisors are not prepared to acknowledge that population stabilization and degrowth are essential for addressing climate change.

Moreover, many countries, including Canada, China, European Union members, Iran, Israel, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, continue to push for the further growth of their populations. China, for example, has moved from a one-child policy to a three-child policy to increase its population of more than 1.4 billion.

Russia has adopted a number of policies to increase its low birth rate, including maternity capital program, Procreation Day, state funding for new mothers, welfare benefits to families with young children and tax breaks for larger families. The United States relies heavily on immigration, more than one million immigrants annually, to increase its population, which is projected to reach 400 million by around midcentury.

Rather than immigration, most European Union Members aim to increase their populations by raising below replacement fertility levels. The mood in many parts of Europe is reflected in the German poster saying: “Wir können unsere eigenen Babys machen, wir brauchen keine Ausländer” (We can make our own babies, we don’t need foreigners). Hungary, in particular, has been outspoken in its opposition to immigration and foreigners, and straightforward in its policies, programs and financial incentives aimed at helping Hungarians have all the babies they want.

Also, Iran recently adopted a bill that limits sterilization, abortion and free distribution of contraceptives in the public health care system unless a pregnancy threatens a woman’s health, all aimed at raising its birth rate and increasing its population of 85 million by tens of millions over the coming decades. And Israel promotes population growth of its Jewish population and expansion of settlements as a prerequisite for security and economic development and its current population of 8.7 million could increase to 15 million by 2050.

Throughout most of human history demographic growth was relatively slow. The rapid growth of world population is relatively recent, having occurred largely during the second half of the 20th century with record breaking rates of growth and population increases. World population reached 1 billion around 1804, doubled to 2 billion in 1927, doubled again to 4 billion in 1974 and will double again to 8 billion by 2023 (Figure 1).

Source: United Nations Population Division.

World population’s 10 billion mark is expected to occur around mid-century, with much of the growth taking place in less developed countries. Africa’s current population of about 1.4 billion, for example, is expected to double to 2.8 billion by 2056. Particularly noteworthy, Nigeria’s population, which increased more than fivefold over the past 70 years, is projected to double again, reaching 423 million by around midcentury and displacing the United States as the world’s third largest population.

It’s time to end the charade and acknowledge the disastrous consequences of a world with 8 billion humans is having on climate change. For example, based on the performance to date of Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, the United States, the top 7 emitters of greenhouse gas emissions accounting for nearly two-thirds of global emissions and half of the world’s population, the world is unlikely to achieve the goals needed to address climate change nor respond effectively to environmental degradation and biodiversity loss (Figure 2).

Source: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Additional insight into greenhouse gas emissions is offered by per capita comparisons of major countries. While in 2018 the world average of tons of CO2 equivalent per person was approximately 6, the United States and Russia had the highest per person levels of 19 and 18, respectively. The per person levels for the world’s billionaire plus populations, China and India, were considerably lower at about 8 and 2, respectively (Figure 3).

Source: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

It also appears unlikely that the world will achieve the global goal adopted by 196 parties in 2015 in the legally binding international treaty on climate change, the Paris Agreement, to limit global warmingto well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Moreover, to preserve a livable climate on the planet, the world community of nations will not likely be able to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions net 0 by 2050.

While it is widely recognized that climate change is a global emergency, the international system of nations is failing to deal with this challenge as well as related global problems due to national ambitions. To effectively address this failing, some believe that a new worldview of planetary politics is called for, with the survival of the biosphere to be designated an international objective relevant to all nations. However, moving away from the primacy of national sovereignty to a planetary approach appears unlikely any time soon.

One significant demographic response to climate change is human migration, both internal and international. Increasingly, people are migrating to escape climate change’s disastrous consequences, including rising sea levels, lengthy droughts, deadly heat, polluted air, devastating floods, raging wildfires and violent storms.

The planet is all but guaranteed to see 5 feet of sea level rise in the coming decades. This rise is especially threatening to no less than a dozen island nations, including Fiji, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Seychelles, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. In addition, by the end of the decade approximately 50 percent of the world’s population will live in coastal areas that are exposed to storms, tsunamis and floods.

Also, exposure to extreme heat, which has tripled from 1983 to 2016, now impacts roughly a quarter of the world’s population. Longer and hotter heat waves have become a regular feature of climate change. Low income communities, especially in developing countries, are most vulnerable with more than two-thirds of global households lacking access to air conditioning.

Governments will need to decide on how best to address climate-induced population displacement, which is already a reality for millions worldwide. Over the next several decades, tens of millions of “climate migrants” are expected to be displaced by extreme heat, droughts, sea-level rise, or other severe climate events within and across countries. Some are calling for a United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and climate change.

Other expected demographic responses to climate change are reduced fertility and increased morbidity and mortality. Hot weather, for example, can worsen reproductive health and maternal health outcomes as well as lead to later birth rates and harm to infant survival.

Also, climate change is considered the single biggest health threat facing the world’s 8 billion humans. Changes in the planet’s climate are expected to have serious consequences on the social, economic and environmental determinants of health, including air, water, food and shelter.

WHO reports that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause 250 thousand additional deaths annually from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. Also, others estimate that global warming could lead to the premature deaths of more than 80 million people over the remainder of the century.

Whenever climate change is discussed, written about, or mentioned, the demographic growth of nations can no longer be ignored or dismissed by governments. The planet with 8 billion humans and continuing to grow must be seriously addressed in climate change negotiations.

In brief, the stabilization and degrowth of human populations are essential for limiting the ever-increasing demographic created demands for energy, water, food, land, resources, housing, heating/cooling, transportation, material goods, etc. that are responsible for the planet’s climate change, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.

Joseph Chamie is a consulting demographer, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book, “Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters.”

© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Source: globalissues.org

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UNESCO Member States Adopt Recommended Ethics for AI

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The agreement outlines the biases that AI technologies can “embed and exacerbate” and their potential impact on “human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms, gender equality, democracy … and the environment and ecosystems.”by SWAN – Southern World Arts News (paris)Friday, November 26, 2021Inter Press Service

The adopted text, which the agency calls “historic”, outlines the “common values and principles which will guide the construction of the necessary legal infrastructure to ensure the healthy development of AI,” UNESCO says.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. Credit: AM/SWAN

The text states that AI systems “should not be used for social scoring and mass surveillance purposes,” among other recommendations.

The organization’s 193 member states include countries, however, that are known to use AI and other technologies to carry out such surveillance, often targeting minorities and dissidents – including writers and artists. Governments and multinational companies have also used personal data and AI technology to infringe on privacy.

While such states and entities were not named, UNESCO officials acknowledged that the discussions leading up to the adopted text had included “difficult conversations”.

Presenting the agreement Nov. 25 at the organization’s headquarters in Paris, UNESCO’s Director-General Audrey Azoulay said the initiative to have an AI ethics framework had been launched in 2018.

“I remember that many thought it would be extremely hard if not impossible to attain common ground among the 193 states … but after these years of work, we’ve been rewarded by this important victory for multilateralism,” Azoulay told journalists.

She pointed out that AI technology has been developing rapidly and that it entails a range of profound effects that comprise both advantages to humanity and wide-ranging risks. Because of such impact, a global accord with practical recommendations was necessary, based on input from experts around the world, Azoulay stressed.

The accord came during the 41st session of UNESCO’s General Conference, which took place Nov. 9 to 24 and included the adoption of “key agreements demonstrating renewed multilateral cooperation,” UNESCO said.

While the accord does not provide a single definition of AI, the “ambition” is to address the features of AI that are of “central ethical relevance,” according to the text.

These are the features, or systems, that have “the capacity to process data and information in a way that resembles intelligent behaviour, and typically includes aspects of reasoning, learning, perception, prediction, planning or control,” it said.

While the systems are “delivering remarkable results in highly specialized fields such as cancer screening and building inclusive environments for people with disabilities”, they are equally creating new challenges and raising “fundamental ethical concerns,” UNESCO said.

The agreement outlines the biases that AI technologies can “embed and exacerbate” and their potential impact on “human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms, gender equality, democracy … and the environment and ecosystems.”

According to UNESCO, these types of technologies “are very invasive, they infringe on human rights and fundamental freedoms, and they are used in a broad way.”

The agreement stresses that when member states develop regulatory frameworks, they should “take into account that ultimate responsibility and accountability must always lie with natural or legal persons” – that is, humans – “and that AI systems should not be given legal personality” themselves.

“New technologies need to provide new means to advocate, defend and exercise human rights and not to infringe them,” the agreement says.

Among the long list of goals, UNESCO said that the accord aims to ensure that digital transformations contribute as well to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals” (a UN blueprint to achieve a “better and more sustainable future” for the world).

“We see increased gender and ethnic bias, significant threats to privacy, dignity and agency, dangers of mass surveillance, and increased use of unreliable AI technologies in law enforcement, to name a few. Until now, there were no universal standards to provide an answer to these issues,” UNESCO stated.

Regarding climate change, the text says that member states should make sure that AI favours methods that are resource- and energy-efficient, given the impact on the environment of storing huge amounts of data, which requires energy. It additionally asks governments to assess the direct and indirect environmental impact throughout the AI system life cycle.

On the issue of gender, the text says that member states “should ensure that the potential for digital technologies and artificial intelligence to contribute to achieving gender equality is fully maximized.”

It adds that states “must ensure that the human rights and fundamental freedoms of girls and women, and their safety and integrity are not violated at any stage of the AI system life cycle.”

Alessandra Sala, director of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science at Shutterstock and president of the non-profit organization Women in AI – who spoke at the presentation of the agreement – said that the text provides clear guidelines for the AI field, including on artistic, cultural and gender issues.

“It is a symbol of societal progress,” she said, emphasizing that understanding the ethics of AI was a shared “leadership responsibility” which should include women’s often “excluded voices”.

In answer to concerns raised by journalists about the future of the recommendations, which are essentially non-binding, UNESCO officials said that member states realize that the world “needs” this agreement and that it was a step in the right direction.

© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Article: globalissues.org

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Digital Child’s Play: Protecting Children From the Impacts of AI

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UNICEF/ DiefagaUNICEF has developed policy guidance to protect children from the potential impacts of AIFriday, November 26, 2021UN News

Children are already interacting with AI technologies in many different ways: they are embedded in toys, virtual assistants, video games, and adaptive learning software. Their impact on children’s lives is profound, yet UNICEF found that, when it comes to AI policies and practices, children’s rights are an afterthought, at best.

In response, the UN children’s agency has developed draft Policy Guidance on AI for Children to promote children’s rights, and raise awareness of how AI systems can uphold or undermine these rights.

Conor Lennon from UN News asked Jasmina Byrne, Policy Chief at the UNICEF Global Insights team, and Steven Vosloo, a UNICEF data, research and policy specialist, about the importance of putting children at the centre of AI-related policies.

AI Technology will fundamentally change society.

Steven Vosloo, a UNICEF data, research and policy specialist, by UNICEF

Steven Vosloo At UNICEF we saw that AI was a very hot topic, and something that would fundamentally change society and the economy, particularly for the coming generations. But when we looked at national AI strategies, and corporate policies and guidelines, we realized that not enough attention was being paid to children, and to how AI impacts them. 

So, we began an extensive consultation process, speaking to experts around the world, and almost 250 children, in five countries. That process led to our draft guidance document and, after we released it, we invited governments, organizations and companies to pilot it. We’re developing case studies around the guidance, so that we can share the lessons learned.

Jasmina Byrne AI has been in development for many decades. It is neither harmful nor benevolent on its own. It’s the application of these technologies that makes them either beneficial or harmful.

There are many positive applications of AI that can be used in in education for personalized learning. It can be used in healthcare, language simulation and processing, and it is being used to support children with disabilities.

And we use it at UNICEF. For example, it helps us to predict the spread of disease, and improve poverty estimations. But there are also many risks that are associated with the use of AI technologies. 

Children interact with digital technologies all the time, but they’re not aware, and many adults are not aware, that many of the toys or platforms they use are powered by artificial intelligence. That’s why we felt that there has to be a special consideration given to children and because of their special vulnerabilities.

UNICEF/ Diefaga

Children using computers

Privacy and the profit motive

Steven Vosloo The AI could be using natural language processing to understand words and instructions, and so it’s collecting a lot of data from that child, including intimate conversations, and that data is being stored in the cloud, often on commercial servers. So, there are privacy concerns.

We also know of instances where these types of toys were hacked, and they were banned in Germany, because they were considered to be safe enough.

Around a third of all online users are children. We often find that younger children are using social media platforms or video sharing platforms that weren’t designed with them in mind.

They are often designed for maximum engagement, and are built on a certain level of profiling based on data sets that may not represent children.

Jasmina Byrne, Policy Chief at the UNICEF Global Insights team, by UNICEF

Predictive analytics and profiling are particularly relevant when dealing with children: AI may profile children in a way that puts them in a certain bucket, and this may determine what kind of educational opportunities they have in the future, or what benefits parents can access for children. So, the AI is not just impacting them today, but it could set their whole life course on a different direction.

Jasmina Byrne Last year this was big news in the UK. The Government used an algorithm to predict the final grades of high schoolers. And because the data that was input in the algorithms was skewed towards children from private schools, their results were really appalling, and they really discriminated against a lot of children who were from minority communities. So, they had to abandon that system. 

That’s just one example of how, if algorithms are based on data that is biased, it can actually have a really negative consequences for children.

‘It’s a digital life now’

Steven Vosloo We really hope that our recommendations will filter down to the people who are actually writing the code. The policy guidance has been aimed at a broad audience, from the governments and policymakers who are increasingly setting strategies and beginning to think about regulating AI, and the private sector that it often develops these AI systems.

We do see competing interests: the decisions around AI systems often have to balance a profit incentive versus an ethical one. What we advocate for is a commitment to responsible AI that comes from the top: not just at the level of the data scientist or software developer, from top management and senior government ministers.

Jasmina Byrne The data footprint that children leave by using digital technology is commercialized and used by third parties for their own profit and for their own gain. They’re often targeted by ads that are not really appropriate for them. This is something that we’ve been really closely following and monitoring.

However, I would say that there is now more political appetite to address these issues, and we are working to put get them on the agenda of policymakers.

Governments need to think and puts children at the centre of all their policy-making around frontier digital technologies. If we don’t think about them and their needs. Then we are really missing great opportunities.

Steven Vosloo The Scottish Government released their AI strategy in March and they officially adopted the UNICEF policy guidance on AI for children. And part of that was because the government as a whole has adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child into law. Children’s lives are not really online or offline anymore. And it’s a digital life now.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the interview here.

UNICEF/ Schverdfinger

UNICEF has developed policy guidance to protect children from the potential impacts of AI

The Global Forum on AI for Children

On November 30 – December 1, UNICEF and the Government of Finland host the Global Forum on AI for Children.This event gathers the world’s foremost children’s rights and technology experts, policymakers, practitioners and researchers, as well as children active in the AI space, to connect and share knowledge on pressing issues at the intersection of children’s rights, digital technology policies and AI systems.The forum aims to recap project achievements and impacts, share knowledge of what has worked and what hasn’t for more child-centred AI, and enable networking on how the work can continue and inspire participants to act.

© UN News (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

Source: globalissues.org

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Growing Amazon Deforestation a Grave Threat to Global Climate

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Brazil has a “green future,” announced Environment Minister Joaquim Leite and Vice-President Hamilton Mourão, in a videoconference presentation from Brasilia at the Glasgow climate summit, in an attempt to shore up Brazil’s credibility, damaged by Amazon deforestation. The two officials concealed the fact that deforestation in the Amazon rose by 21.9 percent last year. CREDIT: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil-Fotos Públicasby Mario Osava (rio de janeiro)Friday, November 26, 2021Inter Press Service

The report by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) based on the data for the year covering August 2020 to July 2021 is dated Oct. 27, but the government did not release it until Thursday, Nov. 18.

It thus prevented the disaster from further undermining the credibility of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s government, already damaged by almost three years of anti-environmental policies and actions, ahead of and during the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the climate change convention, held in Glasgow, Scotland from Oct. 31 to Nov. 13.

INPE’s Satellite Monitoring of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon Project (Prodes) recorded 13,235 square kilometers of deforestation, 21.97 percent more than in the previous period and almost three times the 2012 total of 4,571 square kilometers.

The so-called Legal Amazon, a region covering 5.01 million square kilometers in Brazil, has already lost about 17 percent of its forest cover. In a similar sized area the forests were degraded, i.e. some species were cut down and biodiversity and biomass were reduced, according to the non-governmental Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (IMAZON).

Carlos Nobre, one of the country’s leading climatologists and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the world’s largest tropical forest is approaching irreversible degradation in a process of “savannization” (the gradual transition of tropical rainforest into savanna).

The point of no return is a 20 to 25 percent deforestation rate, estimates Nobre, a researcher at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo and a member of the Brazilian and U.S. national academies of sciences.

Reaching that point would be a disaster for the planet. Amazon forests and soils store carbon equivalent to five years of global emissions, experts calculate. Forest collapse would release a large part of these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

A similar risk comes from the permafrost, a layer of frozen subsoil beneath the Arctic and Greenland ice, for example, which is beginning to thaw in the face of global warming.

This is another gigantic carbon store that, if released, would seriously undermine the attempt to limit the increase in the Earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century.

The Amazon rainforest, an immense biome spread over eight South American countries plus the territory of French Guiana, is therefore key in the search for solutions to the climate crisis.

Evolution of the deforested area in the Brazilian Amazon since 1988, with its ups and downs and an upward tendency in the last nine years. Policies to crack down on environmental crimes by strengthened public agencies were successful between 2004 and 2012. Graphic: INPE

Brazil, which accounts for 60 percent of the biome, plays a decisive role. And that is why it is the obvious target of the measure announced by the European Commission, which, with the expected approval of the European Parliament, aims to ban the import of agricultural products associated with deforestation or forest degradation.

The Commission, the executive body of the 27-nation European Union, does not distinguish between legal and illegal deforestation. It requires exporters to certify the exemption of their products by means of tracing suppliers.

Brazil is a leading agricultural exporter that is in the sights of environmentalists and leaders who, for commercial or environmental reasons, want to preserve the world’s remaining forests.

The 75 percent increase in Amazon deforestation in the nearly three years of the Bolsonaro administration exacerbates Brazil’s vulnerability to environmentally motivated trade restrictions.

This was the likely reason for a shift in the attitude of the governmental delegation in Glasgow during COP26.

Unexpectedly, Brazil adhered to the commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030, a measure that affects cattle ranching, which accounts for 71.8 percent of the country’s emissions of this greenhouse gas.

As the world’s largest exporter of beef, which brought in 8.4 billion dollars for two million tons in 2020, Brazil had previously rejected proposals targeting methane, a gas at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in global warming.

Brazil also pledged to eliminate deforestation by 2028, two years ahead of the target, and stopped obstructing agreements such as the carbon market, in a totally different stance from the one it had taken in the previous two years.

The threat of trade barriers and the attempt to improve the government’s international reputation are behind the new attitude. The new ministers of Foreign Affairs, Carlos França, and Environment, Joaquim Leite, in office since April and June, respectively, are trying to mitigate the damage caused by their anti-diplomatic and anti-environmental predecessors.

But the new data on Amazon deforestation and the delay in its disclosure unleashed a new backlash.

President Jair Bolsonaro stated that the Amazon has kept its forests intact since 1500 and does not suffer from fires because it is humid, in a Nov. 15 speech during the Invest Brazil Forum, held in Dubai to attract capital to the country. He made this claim when he already knew that in the last year deforestation had grown by almost 22 percent. CREDIT: Alan Santos/PR-Fotos Públicas

Leite claimed not to have had prior knowledge of the INPE report, difficult to believe from a member of a government known for using fake news and disinformation. He announced that the government would take a “forceful” stance against environmental crimes in the Amazon, commenting on the “unacceptable” new deforestation figures.

Together with the Minister of Justice and Public Security Anderson Torres, who has the Federal Police under his administration, he promised to mobilize the necessary forces to combat illegal deforestation.

The reaction is tardy and of doubtful success, given the contrary stance taken by the president and the deactivation of the environmental bodies by the previous minister, Ricardo Salles, who defended illegal loggers against police action.

The former minister stripped the two institutes executing environmental policy, one for inspection and the other for biodiversity protection and management of conservation units, of resources and specialists. He also appointed unqualified people, such as military police, to command these bodies.

President Bolsonaro abolished councils and other mechanisms for public participation in environmental management, as in other sectors, and encouraged several illegal activities in the Amazon, such as “garimpo” (informal mining) and the invasion of indigenous areas and public lands.

The result could only be an increase in the deforestation and forest fires that spread the destruction in the last two years. The smoke from the “slash-and-burn” clearing technique polluted the air in cities more than 1,000 kilometers away.

Bolsonaro, however, declared on Nov. 15 in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, that fires do not occur in the Amazon due to the humidity of the rainforest and that 90 percent of the region remains “the same as in 1500,” when the Portuguese arrived in Brazil.

His vice-president, General Hamilton Mourão, acknowledged that “deforestation in the Amazon is real, the INPE data leave no doubt.” His unusual disagreement with the president arises from his experience in presiding over the National Council of the Legal Amazon, which proposes and coordinates actions in the region.

Brazil had managed to reduce Amazon deforestation since the 2004 total of 27,772 square kilometers. A concerted effort by environmental agencies reduced the total to 4,571 square kilometers in 2012. This shows that it is possible, but it depends on political will and adequate management.

© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Article: globalissues.org

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