Country Background Information: USA

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Country Background Information: USA

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Key country facts

Glossary

With more than 270 million cars and trucks, the USA’s transport sector is the second largest contributor (29%) to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Over 90% of these vehicles use petroleum-based fuel.

Florida is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Because of its coastal location, many cities in Florida are vulnerable to rising sea levels. This means that it is at risk of more frequent and intense flooding, erosion and saltwater intrusion which can affect agriculture, water supply and the natural environment.

Hurricane Katrina hit the south-eastern part of the USA in August 2005. It was the costliest natural disaster to hit the USA ever and resulted in 1,245 deaths. It is predicted that the wind speeds and rainfall associated with tropical cyclones will increase in a warming world.

Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the world. Its 9000km2 land area goes across three states: Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. It is also home to many wildlife including 67 species of mammals, and over 300 species of birds.

More than half of US oil output is now extracted through fracking. This boosted oil industry production from 102,000 barrels of oil per day in 2000 to 12.5 million barrels per day in 2019. However, the process of fracking has resulted in large number of oil spills which can cause environmental damage. Source: Flickr / Tim Evanson

The transition from President Obama to President Trump has marked a significant change in the country’s position on climate change. In 2016, Obama agreed to sign the Paris Agreement to legally bind the USA to reduce its carbon emissions. In 2019, the USA began to withdraw from the agreement. However, 23 states have formed the United States Climate Alliance and committed to meet or exceed the targets of the Agreement.

Consumer spending continues to rise in the USA. An average household spends about $60,000 or about £49,000 per year. Although high consumption is economically good, it puts pressure on natural resources where products are made and generates waste. Source: Flickr / Diariocritico de Venezuela More than 1,200 tornadoes develop across the US every year. Most of them occur in the Southern states bordering the Gulf of Mexico such as Texas, Kansas, and Florida. The damage caused by tornadoes could increase as the climate warms. Source: Flickr / Lane Pearman Wheat is the third most grown field crop in the USA after corn and soybean but has been declining. The U.S. share of global wheat exports have gone down from 25% in 2005 to 15% in 2016. Research shows that rising temperatures have contributed to a decline in wheat production. Source: Flickr / Tobin California’s hot and dry climate leads to frequent droughts. Recently, droughts have become more extreme with record-high temperatures and record-low levels of precipitation. This impacts water supply and water quality, wildlife, wild fires and agriculture. In an extreme drought event in 2016, some reservoir levels were at 10% of normal capacity. Source: Flickr / Linda Tanner Further Materials (higher level learners) – United States of America General Information Country Background Information: Russian Federation Home » Teaching Resources » Secondary » Page 25 Country Background Information: Russian Federation If possible, download these two documents to your phone, so that you can refer to them later: Key country facts Glossary The climate of Russia is continental, with hot, dry summers and extremely cold winters – particularly in Siberia. The Western parts of the country have the most rain. During winter, snow cover lasts from 60 to 80 days in the south and from 260 to 280 days in the far North. Russia is the world’s third largest oil producer. Because of its large oil and gas industry, Russia has a high-emission and energy-inefficient economy. Moscow is the capital city of the Russian Federation, the largest country in the world by land area, which spans 11 time zones and accounts for 1/8 of the world’s land area. 78% of its population live in European Russia. Russia has extensive gas, coal and oil reserves. 87% of the energy Russia consumes comes from fossil fuels. Russia is also the world’s second largest producer of hydroelectricity. Other renewable energy sources are largely undeveloped although it has the potential for them. The Russian Federation, commonly known as Russia, emerged when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. Russia has ratified the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Vast areas of northern Russia are covered in tundra, where the ground remains frozen and precipitation is very low. Recent changes in weather have resulted in milder winter temperatures, affecting not only pasture for reindeers but also the movement of the indigenous peoples of the arctic tundra. As the tundra warms, there are complex changes to the local carbon cycle. Source: Flickr / Ninara Russia is warming 2.5 times faster than other parts of the world. Increases in temperature have caused a decline in the Arctic sea ice. This opens up shorter trade routes which could potentially benefit the Russian and global economy. Ships are a major emitter of greenhouse gases. Source: Flickr / Christopher Michel Russia has the longest hot water and district heating network in the world. Heating for houses and hot water is centrally provided through an inefficient pipe network from local heat generation plants. There are no heating controls in many older houses apart from opening the window. Source: Flickr / Vera 13% of Russia is classified as agricultural land, but only 7% of it is cultivated. Since 2000, the country has become a major grain exporter. Russia has introduced laws restricting the import of food from many countries. Source: Wikimedia Commons / Sergey Ashmarin The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, commonly known as Saint Basil’s Cathedral, is a 16th century church in the Red Square in Moscow, Russia and a major tourist attraction. Orthodox Christianity is the main religion in Russia, but Islam, Buddhism and Judaism are also important Further Materials (higher level learners) – Russian Federation General Information Country Background Information: Australia Home » Teaching Resources » Secondary » Page 25 Country Background Information: Australia If possible, download these two documents to your phone, so that you can refer to them later: Key country facts Glossary Off the north east coast of Australia is the Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest coral reef system covering 344,400 km2. The Reef is home to more than 2000 species of corals and fish and other marine animals such as whales, dolphins, sharks, and rays. However, continuous increases in ocean temperatures have caused more than 60% of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef to bleach. 25% are severely bleached. Like kangaroos, koalas are native to Australia. They live in forests and woodlands and feed off leaves of eucalypts. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recently listed them as Vulnerable because of the impacts of climate change and loss of habitat. 10 000 koalas died in the 2019/ 2020 Australian bushfires. Because of its size, Australia has a variety of weather and seasons depending on the region. The popular Bondi Beach in New South Wales can be found in the temperate zone, where average summer temperature is between 16 and 26 °C. However, during heatwaves, temperature can reach as high as 48 °C. Known as the oldest civilization, Aborigines lived in Australia long before the arrival of European settlers in the 1700s. Aboriginal Australians have a very diverse culture – rich with arts, music, and dance. Source: Flickr / Dan Lundberg One of the biggest industry in Australia is mining. It is also a large contributor to the country’s economy. Apart from gold, Australia also mines coal, uranium, iron ore, nickel, bauxite, lead, copper, zinc, mineral sands and diamonds. About 25 million people live in Australia, where 86% reside and work in urban areas. The country also has one of the highest living costs in the world. On average, living costs in Australia are 13% higher than in the UK. Australia is one of the world’s largest coal exporters. Gladstone Port in Queensland exports about 70 million tonnes of coal per year. Coal accounts for 40% of Australia’s energy use and 72% of electricity generation. Built in 1973, the Opera House in Sydney is named as one of the most distinctive buildings of the 20th century. It attracts 10.9 million visitors every year. Bushfires are common in Australia because of its generally hot and dry climate, topography and flammable vegetation like eucalypts. Every year, bushfires cause damage to properties and loss of life. Australia’s summer of 2019/20 released more carbon dioxide than Australia does in a year. Bushfires are becoming more common. The Royal Exhibition building, surrounded by the iconic Carlton Gardens, is the first UNESCO World Heritage Listing in Australia. It was built in 1880 and remains as the only surviving Great Hall for exhibitions. Country Background Information: Nigeria Home » Teaching Resources » Secondary » Page 25 Country Background Information: Nigeria If possible, download these two documents to your phone, so that you can refer to them later: Key country facts Glossary Nigeria has the highest population in Africa. 51% of its population lives in urban areas, an 18% increase over the last 10 years. Half the population of the country lives below the International Poverty Line, driven by ethnic conflict, political instability and income inequality. Source: Flickr / Robert Gender inequality is a major issue in Nigeria. In 2007, 64% of boys and 58% of girls of primary school age were in school. Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school in the world. Source: Flickr / Mark Fischer Nigeria is the 13th largest producer of oil in the world. Its oil and gas sector accounts for about 10% of GDP, while petroleum exports revenue represents over 86% of total exports revenue. However, it employs only a tiny fraction of the population and conflict limits productivity. Source: Flickr / e.r.w.i.n. Agriculture and food production is the main source of livelihood and largest economic sector in Nigeria, despite the prominence of the oil industry. Its main crops are rice and cassava, with a heavy reliance on rainfall. Source: Flickr / Andrew Moore Situated on a lagoon in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, is Makoko – a floating slum village. This community was a result of population explosion and migration of people into the cities. It has about 250,000 residents. The government is working with them to regenerate the area. Source: Flickr / Rainer Wozny, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung There are more rural poor than urban poor. Nigeria has the 5th lowest life expectancy of countries worldwide. Source: Flickr / Rainer Wozny, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Nigeria’s unique rainforest is amongst the richest in Africa. The country is also home to numerous important game reserves, such as the Yankari and Kainji national parks. Source: Flickr / Shiraz Chakera Despite its relatively fast development, infrastructure (e.g. buildings, roads and other communications networks and power supplies) in Nigeria remains inadequate. Nigeria spends about US$6 billion (5% of GDP) per year for infrastructure development, however, the Asian Development Bank recommends that for a developing country to sustain growth, it has to spend at least 6% of its GDP on infrastructure. Source: Flickr / Jollof Malt

Cocoa is the main agricultural export of Nigeria. However, production has been declining in the last five years. Apart from policy challenges, cocoa production is sensitive to increase in temperature and reduced rainfall. Source: Flickr / Jollof Malt

Around two-thirds of the total land area of Nigeria is experiencing desertification. Desertification happens because of high temperatures and low rainfall which results in land being unable to support vegetation or the growth of plants. Source: Flickr / Jeff Attaway

Country Background Information: Maldives

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Country Background Information: Maldives

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Maldives

Glossary

Tourism is the main industry in the Maldives. It has 1,190 islands, with 200 inhabited. The availability of drinking water and arable land are its limiting factors. As sea levels rise, salt water can encroach on the lenses of fresh water stored in the ground.

Maldives has one of the richest marine biodiversity in the world. All the islands in the Maldives are atolls or ring-shaped coral islands. In unusually hot weather, coral reefs can become ‘bleached’ when the coral loses the algae that lives within it and provides it with food. In long hot spells, this can lead to the coral dying. Over 60% of its reefs are already bleached. As the climate warms, more bleaching events are predicted.

Over 80% of the Maldives is less than 1m above sea level. This makes the country very vulnerable to sea level rise. In 2009, the Government held a cabinet meeting under water to highlight its vulnerability. Source: Flickr/ Sindi

The Maldives hold a range of coastal ecosystems including coral reefs, seagrass beds, lagoons, beaches and small areas of mangrove. These coastal and marine ecosystems are the asset base of the national economy. For example, tourism is based wholly on the health and attractiveness of Maldives’s coastal features. Source: Wikimedia Commons / Nevit Dilmen

The total population of the Maldives is just over 540,000. The number of people living in poverty in the Maldives has fallen rapidly in recent years such that now there is very little. Recent migration to the Maldives from South Asia, Egypt, Russia etc. has been to fill jobs in tourism, construction, health and education sectors. Migrants make up over a third of the population.

Most people live on the capital island, Male. Congestion is an issue. It is the 7th most densely populated island in the world. Source: Flickr / Timo Newton-Syms

Imported oil and diesel are the main power source for the Maldives. The Maldives also imports wood, iron and steel, pre-fabricated buildings, vegetables and cement. Source: Flickr / Mark Fischer

Fishing is the second largest industry in the Maldives. Fish is the dominant export from the islands. Fishing relies on healthy marine ecosystems. Source: Flickr / Mark Fischer

Many tourist resorts are reporting severe beach erosion as sea levels rise. Source: Flickr / Neville Wootton

Coconuts are important to Maldives’ agriculture and economy. Coconut production is its main agricultural activity while copra made from coconut palms is one of its top export products. Source: Flickr / Easa Shamih

Country Background Information: India

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Country Background Information: India

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Key country facts

Glossary

The Taj Mahal is a popular tourist attraction in Agra, India. It is considered to be the greatest example of Indo-Islamic architecture and was listed as a UN World Heritage Site in 1983. Local air pollution can cause discoloration to its centuries-old white marble.

Over 40 million hectares of India’s land is prone to flooding including its two main cities, Kolkota and Mumbai. As sea levels rise, by 2050 at least 40 million people are expected to be at risk.

The monsoon season in India is from June to December. Year to year changes in the monsoon can mean flooding or drought. The impact of climate change on the Indian monsoon is as yet not clear. Source: Flickr / Craig Cloutier

India is a rising economic power. Its financial and commercial centre is Mumbai where many of its industry sectors operate. These include electronics, manufacturing, and textile, contributing 25% to India’s industrial output. It is also the richest and most populous city in India. Source: Flickr / Puranjit Gangopadhyay / CIFOR

Over 1 380 million people live in India and its population continue to grow at a faster pace than China. It is therefore projected that by 2024, it will overtake China as the most populous country in the world. 21% of its population is below the poverty line.

Wheat is one of the main agricultural products of India, cultivated mostly in the Northern region. India is the second top producer of wheat in the world. Despite the existence of big commercial industries in Indian cities, more people (42%) still rely on agriculture for livelihood and employment.

The Indian Himalayan glaciers cover around 25,000 km2 of catchment area, flowing in three major river systems. Glacial meltwater is important for reservoirs and river flow. Any change in the ice cover and flow of melting glaciers can significantly affect river systems, potentially impacting water quality and availability, for domestic, agricultural and industrial use. Source: Flickr / Steynard

Solar energy is India’s top and fastest growing renewable energy resource. It currently contributes 10% to the country’s energy mix, with a generation capacity of 37 GW. In 2017, solar power became cheaper than power from coal. Source: Flickr / CGIAR

Auto-rickshaws are a popular mode of transportation in Indian cities. In Mumbai alone, there are about 200,000 of them. Air pollution from rickshaws poses health risks. Source: Flickr / Melanie M

The Urban Heat Island effect means that many cities, like New Delhi, experience warmer temperatures, particularly at night. The warmest places are usually concentrated in residential, industrial, and commercial zones. Source: Flickr / Francisco Anzola

Country Background Information: European Union

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Country Background Information: European Union

For the purposes of these negotiations, the 27 countries of the EU are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

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Key EU facts

Glossary

The European Union is composed of 27 diverse member states. The EU more than met its 2020 target of 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The European Climate Law sets the 2050 target of becoming the world’s first climate neutral continent. Between 2014 and 2020 the EU committed EUR 14 billion to finance climate change adaptation and mitigation activities in developing countries. Source: Flickr / Thijs ter Haar

Luxembourg is the second richest country in the world based on income. Only 2 500 km2 in size, its territorial GHG emissions are much lower than other EU countries. However, their per capita emissions are one of the highest in the world due to a more energy-intensive lifestyle.

One of the most visited European destinations, Paris is also significant as a landmark for climate negotiations. In 2015 at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties, 195 nations agreed to sign the Paris Agreement which aims to “keep the global temperature rise in this century well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels” and pursue a limit of 1.5 C.

Croatia joined the European Union in 2013; the newest member of the EU. Compared to other EU countries which focus on climate change mitigation, the government of Croatia’s climate change policy is focused on adaptation. Because of its coastal location, around 15% of the country is at risk from flooding caused by rising sea levels and extreme weather events. Source: Flickr / Andrey

Germany has the largest economy in Europe, powered by its biggest industry–automobile manufacturing. Through improvements in engine efficiency and fuel alternatives, this industry has seen significant reductions in GHG emissions. So far, Germany has managed to reduce its total emissions to 36% below 1990 levels, yet it remains to be the biggest contributor to EU emissions.

Malta currently has the lowest GHG emission among all EU countries, with only 2 Mt CO2eq. Investment in new generation capacity, fuel switching and alternative sourcing of electricity contribute towards the rapid decrease in emissions since 2012.

Denmark generates the highest wind power in Europe. In 2019, more than 47% of the country’s electricity was from wind energy. Denmark also exports wind energy to neighbouring countries. Source: Flickr / Kim Hansen

Olive oil is one of the top agricultural exports from the EU, providing 67% of the world’s olive oil. Scientists predict that olive yield will be affected as drought and pest infestations increase with climate change.

Nuclear power is significant in France’s energy and economy. Around 75% of France’s electricity is from nuclear power. It is also able to export electricity from nuclear energy, earning them around EUR 3 billion per year. Source: Flickr / IAEA Imagebank

Since 2015, about 2 million refugees have come to the EU. Climate change is expected to cause further migration. The EU recognizes this and has set out policy discussions on how they could support and assist other countries in addressing migration as an adaptation strategy. Source: Flicker / Ilias Bartolini

Further Materials (higher level learners) – EU

Note that many of these resources include the UK, bringing the total number of EU states to 28.

Country Background Information: China

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Country Background Information: China

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Key country facts

Glossary

The Great Wall is one of the most popular historial attractions in China. Built from 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD as a military defence, the Wall extends to 20,000 km. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

On the central coast of China is its biggest city and financial centre; Shanghai. While the city booms economically, its coastal location makes it vulnerable to extreme weather such as flooding. This threatens infrastructure, people, businesses and other economic activities.

Pandas are native to China. Despite being a popular conservation icon, giant pandas remain vulnerable to climate change and habitat destruction.

Urban pollution, including haze and smog, is one of the biggest problems in major Chinese cities. This is caused by smoke from the many vehicles, steel factories, and coal-fired power plants. According to recent research, greenhouse gases potentially contribute to the increasing severity and frequency of haze, exacerbating health risks in cities. Source: Flickr / Thomas Galvez

Around 30% of China’s population are employed in industry including mining, iron, steel, aluminum, machinery, and textiles. China is the largest exporter of goods in the world. This also makes it the biggest ‘carbon exporter’: it emits a significant amount of greenhouse gas through making goods for other countries. Source: Flickr / Chris

China has the largest population of any country in the world. With over 1 400 million people, about 20% of the world’s population live in China. However, low birth rates due to government policy and personal choice mean their population is ageing rapidly.

As part of its efforts to reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants and to shift to non-fossil fuel energy source, China is increasing its investments in nuclear energy. It currently has 45 nuclear power reactors and is building 12 more. Source: Flickr / Shubert Ciencia

China’s manufacturing sector contributes about 40% to its GDP. The cement industry in particular, is one of its largest, along with steel and chemical fertilizers. These however are also carbon-intensive industries and are the largest sources of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter with emissions increasing through 2018 and the first half of 2019. Source: Flickr / Jonathan Kos-Read

The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric dam built along the Yang Tze River. 660 km long with a 22,500 MW capacity, it is the largest power station in the world. Because of social and environmental issues surrounding its construction, it is also considered by campaigners as the most controversial power station. Source: Flickr / Harvey Barrison

425 million are employed in agriculture, producing food for 20% of the world’s population. Crops include rice, wheat, potatoes, sorghum, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, cotton and soybeans. About 74% of their total nitrous oxide emissions (a greenhouse gas) come from fertilizer applications.

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Key country facts

Glossary

Agriculture is the main industry employing 87% of its rural population. 39% of Bangladesh’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture which is in itself very vulnerable to floods and drought. Rice is the main crop grown. Source: Flickr /IRRI

Rickshaws, both pedal and motorised, are one of the most common public transportation system in Bangladesh. Transport is Bangladesh’s fastest growing sector and is where Bangladesh’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are focussed. Source: Flickr /IRRI

Poverty remains prominent in Bangladesh, where around 22% of the population live below the international poverty line. Many of its rural areas are in riverside and coastal communities that are continuously affected by coastal flooding, river erosion and salt water intrusion. These affect their land and livelihoods making the poor especially vulnerable to climate change.

The Bengal Tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh and is listed as an endangered species by the IUCN. According to a report by the WWF, continuous sea level rise in the coastal area of Sundarban could significantly reduce their habitats and further endanger tiger populations.

Two thirds of Bangladesh is less than 5m above sea level. Stilt houses are structural solutions for floodprone areas.With around 700 rivers and an extensive river network, up to 70% of the country becomes flooded every year. Tropical cyclones can also cause coastal flooding. Both these risks could increase as the climate changes. If global temperatures continue to increase to 2°C, scientists predict that almost 20% of Bangladesh would eventually be below sea level. Source: Flickr / UCL Development Planning Unit

All children between the ages of 6 and 10 must attend school. Access to education remains a challenge for vulnerable groups, particularly working children, disabled children, indigenous children and those in remote areas or living in extreme poverty. Boys are more likely to miss school than girls, when required to help support their families. Source: Flickr / IRRI

Bangladesh lies on a delta of rivers emptying into the Bay of Bengal. Is it low lying and therefore prone to flooding and the effects of tropical cyclones and sea level rise. The government of Bangladesh spends 6-7% of its annual budget on adapting to climate change already. Source: Flickr / IRRI

Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh, with a population of 21 million people. The textile industry, making clothes for international markets, is centred on urban areas and is the country’s biggest industry. Source: Flickr /IRRI

There was rapid urbanisation between 2000 – 2010. 55% of the urban population live in slums. Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries with a population of over 160 million. Source: Flickr / Francisco Anzola

Bangladesh sits on the Tropic of Cancer. Monsoon rains last from June to October. North-western Bangladesh can experience drought conditions when there is little rain before or after the monsoon. Climate change is expected to change the rainfall pattern in a way which will lead to more frequent droughts. Source: Flickr /IRRI

Country Background Information

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