Greenhouse gas emissions

A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect which maintains the stable temperature of the Earth.

Since the Industrial Revolution there has been a 40% increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which is believed to be contributing to a change in the Earth’s climatic systems. Changes in this system is increasing the vulnerability of many populations.

Embodied Energy

Embodied Energy is the sum of all the energy required to produce goods or services, considered as if that energy was incorporated or ‘embodied’ in the product itself. The concept can be useful in determining the effectiveness of energy-producing or energy-saving devices (does the device produce or save more energy that it took to make it?), of buildings, and, because energy-inputs usually entail greenhouse gas emissions, in deciding whether a product contributes to or mitigates climate change.

If the energy used to produce a good or service is derived from fossil based fuels this leads directly to greenhouse gas emissions. See above.

Climate adaptation

Adaptation to climate change is a response to climate change that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of biological systems to climate change effects.

Planning for climate change adaption increases the security of vulnerable populations and increases the efficiency of organisational operations such as logistics.

Over exploitation and depletion of local resources

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is the goal of minimising the amount of energy needed to to do a specific task. If using a fossil fuel derived fuel source this directly reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere. Whereas if using energy derived from renewable sources this reduces the load on the energy producing system. A classic example is that of using insulation to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building.

Increasing energy efficiency reduces demands on local energy supplies such as forestry (mitigating deforestation) or imported fuel sources. Energy is often derived from fossil fuels, using large amounts of energy increases greenhouse gase emissions.

Renewable energy use

Renewable energy is energy that comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat. It is in contrast to fossil fuel derived fuels which are finite because there is only a finite amount of them under the earth’s surface.

Increasing the amount of energy derived from renewable energy sources reduces dependence on expensive fuel sources, increases resilience and reduces greenhouse gas emissions (see above). Sustainable forestry can be considered a renewable energy source and can provide good employment in the area.

Water efficiency

Water efficiency is a measurement of the amount of water required for a particular purpose and the amount of water used or delivered. Water efficiency differs from water conservation in that it focuses on reducing waste, not restricting use. It also emphasises the influence consumers can have in water efficiency by making small behavioural changes to reduce water wastage and by choosing more water efficient products.

Increasing water efficiency reduces the stress that a population puts on local water sources. This can improve relationships with local communities in refugee situations and local governments. It also reduces the amount of money being spent on water provision.

Material efficiency

Material efficiency is a description or metric which expresses the degree in which usage of raw materials, construction projects or physical processes are used or carried out in a manner which consumes, incorporates, or wastes less of a given material compared to previous measures. Making a usable item out of thinner stock than a prior version increases the material efficiency of the manufacturing process, as does designing products where the materials can be reused or using materials which are more durable.

Planning for efficient material use reduces the stress put on local markets, improves longevity and can improve how appropriate the design of a shelter is to the local climate.

Food

Food production and preparation have significant and continuous impacts on the environment. Agricultural practices normally operate in line with local environment and resource availability but can be stressed with a sudden increase due to a displaced population. Furthermore food preparation has significant energy demands. Disregard of environmental management can lead to a reduction in soil nutrition and water holding capacity which can directly lead to reduced food availability.

A sudden increase in population size will produce a sudden pressure on local resources. Not only will local markets become stressed to supply basic supplies but any agricultural activities by a displaced population will put pressure on the environment.

Environmental degradation

Deforestation

Deforestation, clearance or clearing is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a non-forest use. This may be due to agricultural practice by an increased population or as a result of increased demand for fuel wood.

Deforestation has significant impact on water sequestering, renewal of aquifers, soil nutritional value due to erosion of topsoil (see Food), erosion of soil in general and an increase in vulnerability due to increased risk of flooding or landslides, depending on the topography.

Air pollution

Air pollution is the introduction into the atmosphere of chemicals, particulates, or biological materials that cause discomfort, disease, or death to humans, damage other living organisms such as food crops, or damage the natural environment or built environment.

Household air pollution can have a significant impact on the a population’s respiratory health.

Water pollution

Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies (e.g. lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and groundwater). Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compound.

Water pollution reduces security for a population by contaminating otherwise available clean water. It also increases stress on non-polluted water supplies which would antagonise local populations and increases costs due to a need to import fresh water – this also leads to greenhouse gas emissions (see above).

Soil quality

Soil quality reflects how well a soil performs the functions of maintaining biodiversity and productivity, partitioning water and solute flow, filtering and buffering, nutrient cycling, and providing support for plants and other structures. Soil management has a major impact on soil quality.

A reduction in soil quality reduces the environments ability to sequester water leading to an increased risk of flooding and reduces the environment’s ability to produce food, leading to an increased nutritional risk for local and displaced populations.

Drainage & flooding

Drainage is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from an area. Many agricultural soils need drainage to improve production or to manage water supplies. A flood is an overflow of water that submerges or “drowns” land.

If drainage and flood risks are not properly managed then a population is at increased risk of flooding but also of having unusable agricultural lands. Furthermore, stagnant water produces a risk of water borne diseases or increased vector pathways and flooding with saline water can contaminate clean wells in coastal areas.

Solid waste management

Waste management is the collection, transport, processing or disposal, managing and monitoring of waste materials.

There are two streams of waste management relevant to humanitarian operations. The disaster waste stream which is produced by the disaster and the normal waste stream which is produced by the activities of a population. Disregarding the management of waste streams increases the risk of spreading disease and poses significant public health risks; as well as logistic challenges due to blocked transport links.

Water efficiency

Water efficiency is a measurement of the amount of water required for a particular purpose and the amount of water used or delivered. Water efficiency differs from water conservation in that it focuses on reducing waste, not restricting use. It also emphasises the influence consumers can have in water efficiency by making small behavioural changes to reduce water wastage and by choosing more water efficient products.

Increasing water efficiency reduces the stress that a population puts on local water sources. This can improve relationships with local communities in refugee situations and local governments. It also reduces the amount of money being spent on water provision.

Water availability

Water availability is the volume of renewable water available to the environment.

Water availablity has a dramatic effect on human populations. Without a source of fresh water people quickly die from dehydration. If there is not enough water available to the local environment it cannot sustain any kind of plant life including those required for agriculture.

Transport links

Any road, rail, sea or air port.

At present all transport used by humanitarian agencies is fuelled by fossil fuels which release greenhouse gases (see above). Further more inappropriate construction road networks can produce air pollution from dust or solid particulates in exhaust and have a negative impact on drainage (see above)..

Reduction in biodiversity

Forest/woodland management

Forest management is a branch of forestry concerned with the overall administrative, economic, legal and social aspects and with the essentially scientific and technical aspects, especially silviculture, protection, and forest regulation. This includes management for aesthetics, fish, recreation, urban values, water, wilderness, wildlife, wood products, forest genetic resources and other forest resource values.

Forest management is essential to maintaining the ecological sustainability of an area. This has impacts on drainage and flooding, fuel wood availability, employment for local populations, availability of wild food and availability of fish stocks. Mismanagement can also have a significant negative impact on the acceptance of local populations and government to the humanitarian operations.

Protection of aquatic ecosystems

An aquatic ecosystem is an ecosystem in a body of water. Communities of organisms that are dependent on each other and on their environment live in aquatic ecosystems. The two main types of aquatic ecosystems are marine ecosystems and freshwater ecosystems.

Aquatic ecosystems provide food and employment for local populations and can also provide environmental services for dispersing faecal waste, especially large bodies of water. Mismanagement of this can reduce the availability of food and clean water, as well as reducing the acceptance of humanitarian operations by local population and governments.

Nature conservation

Conservation is an ethic of resource use, allocation, and protection. Its primary focus is upon maintaining the health of the natural world, its fisheries, habitats, andbiological diversity. Secondary focus is on materials conservation and energy conservation, which are seen as important to protect the natural world.

Nature conservation is essential to ensuring the natural environment has the capacity to sustain a population. Many vulnerable population rely directly on the natural environment for food and environmental services. Therefore disregarding it can have a dramatic effect on local and displaced populations as well as the acceptance of humanitarian operations by local populations and government.