Insights into the UNSDGs: rising temperatures have implications for planet earth and its inhabitants

The United Nations fresh water
Prof. Douglas BOATENG

According to the United Nations, the world recorded the seven hottest years on record between 2015 and 2021. Earth’s temperature has risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures (1850 – 1900) resulting in the melting of glaciers and the rising of sea levels.

These rising temperatures have devastating impacts on the lives and livelihoods of people. Floods, heatwaves and drought have displaced millions of people, “sinking them into poverty and hunger, denying them access to basic services, such as health and education, expanding inequalities, stifling economic growth and even causing conflict” (United Nations, 2020).

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13 is focused on climate action.

UNSDG 13 aims to:

  • Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
  • Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
  • Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.
  • Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilising jointly US$100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalise the Green Climate Fund through its capitalisation as soon as possible.
  • Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalised communities.

Despite ongoing plans and commitments to reduce emissions and prevent emerging climate catastrophes, record-breaking temperatures are resulting in more extreme weather.

According to the 2022 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Report, “in 2020, concentrations of global greenhouse gases reached new highs, and real-time data point to continued increases.”

Rising temperatures have led to intense heat and rainfall, melting ice-caps, sea level rises and extreme weather events around the world. “Such extremes could be seen on every continent in 2021: record-shattering temperatures in Canada, deadly flooding in Europe and Asia, and drought in parts of Africa and South America” (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Report, 2022).

Although the COVID-19 pandemic led to a reprieve in global energy demands in 2020, with carbon dioxide emissions reducing by 5.2percent, this reduction did not last long, and by 2021 global emissions rose by 6percent to the highest levels ever recorded.

Overall, climate change is already affecting billions of people across the globe and is causing unprecedented damage to our ecosystems.

The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has highlighted climate change as a ‘code red’ for humanity and has outlined the impact that it will have on five core areas if urgent action is not taken and global temperatures rise by 1.5 deg C or higher.

Disasters and extreme weather

There is no denying the fact that as the Earth continues to warm, we can expect a significant rise in both the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. From flooding and heatwaves to droughts, rainfall, and cyclones, their devastation will undoubtedly increase.

The IPCC predicts “that about one-third of global land, areas will suffer at least moderate drought by 2100.” Related to this, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction estimate that “medium- to large-scale disaster events could reach 560 a year – an average of 1.5 a day – by 2030, a 40 per cent increase from 2015.”


The climatic experts project with utmost certainty that sea levels will indeed rise by a significant margin of 30 to 60 centimetres by the year 2100. The consequences of this rise in sea levels cannot be underestimated, as it will have profound impacts on coastal communities, ecosystems, and global climate patterns.

According to the IPCC, this “would lead to more frequent and severe coastal flooding and erosion. Ocean warming will also continue with increasingly intense and frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification and reduced oxygen. About 70 to 90 per cent of warm-water coral reefs will disappear even if the 1.5 °C threshold is reached; they would die off completely at the 2 °C level. These impacts are expected to occur at least throughout the rest of this century, threatening marine ecosystems and the more than 3 billion people who rely on the ocean for their livelihoods.”


Biodiversity loss is increasing and losses in terrestrial, ocean and coastal systems continue. As temperatures rise, the risk of extinction for endemic species also rises. According to the report, “declining ecosystems and biodiversity loss will affect nature-based services, threatening human health and our very survival. These conditions also increase opportunities for the emergence of new zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, and possible future pandemics.”

Agriculture and food systems

Climate change-related flooding and droughts are an added risk to food production in countries that are already facing food insecurity and malnutrition.

Vulnerable populations

The IPCC report projects that an estimated “3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change. Hotspots of high human vulnerability are concentrated in small island developing States, the Arctic, Southern Asia, Central and South America, and much of sub-Saharan Africa.”

They further assert that “poverty, limited access to basic services, conflict and weak governance limit adaptability to climate change, resulting in humanitarian crises that could displace millions from their homes. By 2030, an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of displacement by drought alone.”

Ghana is one such country that is vulnerable to rising sea levels, increased temperatures, drought and increased rainfall. It is unfortunately already facing the harsh realities of climate change. Like many other nations, it is vulnerable to the menacing consequences of rising sea levels, soaring temperatures, droughts, and intensified rainfall patterns.

According to a 2023 Ghana Climate Change Report released by the Global Agricultural Information Network and the United States Department of Agriculture, “Ghana is experiencing changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and storms. These environmental challenges pose a significant threat to the country’s ecosystems, infrastructure, agriculture, and overall socio-economic stability.

Although “countries are articulating climate action plans to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts through nationally determined contributions,” contributions are currently insufficient to meet the target of limiting emissions to 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels.

The future of planet Earth is in our own hands

To conclude, it is of utmost importance that immediate and decisive action is taken by governments, organizations, and individuals across all nations and industry sectors. Failure to do so will undoubtedly result in a continued rise in temperatures, which will only worsen the already dire situation of global climate disasters. The consequences of inaction are severe and far-reaching, with potentially irreversible damage to the planet and its ecosystems. It is therefore our collective responsibility as a global community to unite and implement sustainable practices that will safeguard planet Earth for future generations.

>>>The writer is an international chartered director and Africa’s first-ever appointed Professor Extraordinaire for Industrialisation and Supply Chain Governance. He is the CEO of PanAvest International and the founding non-executive chairman of MY-future YOUR-Future and OUR-Future (“MYO”) and the “thought-provoking” daily Nyansa Kasa(words of wisdom) series. Professor Boateng is currently the non-executive chairman of the Minerals Income and Investment Fund (MIIF). He was previously the non-executive chairman of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA). For more information on Nyansakasa, visit and




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