In their current manifestation, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are presented as a blueprint to galvanise governments and private actors towards a substantial reduction in extreme poverty levels by 2015 (Sachs et al, 2009, p 1502). While the links between poverty and climate change are unsurprisingly complex, academic research and discourse finds itself approaching these two themes not as interconnected subjects, but rather as variably distinct entities. Cohen et al (1998) argue that even though climate is one symptom of unsustainable development, the two concepts continue to coexist under separate epistemologies, to the extent that climate change has not readily been identified as strongly influencing sustainable development discourse.
Indeed, as emphasised by published data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and the European Environmental Agency (EEA), development rarely features in the discussion of indicators for the measurement of climate change and environmental degradation (NASA, 2012; NCDC, 2012; EEA, 2012), despite observations that its impacts fall disproportionately on developing countries and the poor (McMichael and Butler, 2004). Yet it is increasingly rehearsed in the climate change research that in this interface of climate and development, climate policy goals continue to be missed as a priority for many developing countries, as other issues such as poverty alleviation and energy security remain centre stage on the development agenda (Halnaes and Garg, 2011).
In addition, one main observation is that those most deeply affected by changes in global environmental trends seem less to be the beneficiaries of concentrated efforts towards positive progression but rather appear resigned to be left out in the cold. Sachs et al, however, note that by targeting the root causes of development stagnation and regression, particularly embodied by climate change, the international community may achieve complementary positive results in both sectors (Sachs et al, 2009, p 1502). To do so requires issues of climate change being understood and filtered through the empirical lens of sustainable development priorities, which would support the clarification and simplification of related policy avenues.
This chapter follows several avenues of inquiry as a means of unifying research on development issues and related climate change, thereby presenting a critical base on which future study and international action can be undertaken.