Human development

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Component is implemented in:
  • GISMO model (version 3.0)
  • Human development
Related IMAGE components
Key publications
GISMO model to assess human development in IMAGE 3.0
Flowchart Human development. See also the Input/Output Table on the introduction page.

Key policy issues

  • What are the key future trends in human development, such as those targeted by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?
  • How are changes in the global environment likely to affect human development?
  • How is improved access to food, water and energy likely to contribute to human development?


The environment is important for human development and quality of life, especially for people in developing countries. People’s livelihoods are based on the quantity and quality of the resources they have access to. Unequal access and diminished resource quality have an unequivocal effect on these livelihoods, with negative health impacts as one of the main factors. As seen in the preceding sections, rising demand for food, water and energy will put pressure on scarce natural resources, such as fertile land, potable water and forest resources. The provision of food, water, and energy becomes more difficult when these natural resources are not properly managed or when they degrade due to global environmental change.

The Global Integrated Sustainability Model (GISMO) addresses (changes in) human development, including the distribution of access to sanitation, food and energy, and of the related changes in economic, social and environmental areas (Hilderink and Lucas 2008). Among other things, the model quantifies human development in terms of access to food, water and energy, the Human Development Index (HDI), Population Health measures (e.g. child mortality and life expectancy), and many indicators of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Here we concentrate on those parts of GISMO that link directly to other parts of the main IMAGE model, namely climate-related health risks, health problems related to urban and indoor air pollution, and the effects of malnutrition. On all scales, from global UN processes to local initiatives, decision-makers are concerned with improving the standard of living and human development. The IMAGE framework provides valuable insights into key environmental factors that affect human development, and how these impacts may be reduced by improving the natural environment.

Input/Output Table

Input Human development component

IMAGE model drivers and variablesDescriptionSource
GDP per capita Gross Domestic Product per capita, measured as the market value of all goods and services produced in a region in a year, and is used in the IMAGE framework as a generic indicator of economic activity. Drivers
GINI coefficient Measure of income disparity in a population. If all have the same income, GINI equals 1. The lower the GINI, the wider the gap between the lowest and highest income groups. Drivers
Population - grid Number of people per gridcell (using downscaling). Drivers
Urban population fraction Urban/rural split of population. Drivers
BC, OC and NOx emissions Emissions of BC, OC and NOx per year. Emissions
Food availability per capita Food availability per capita. Agricultural economy
People dependent on solid fuel Proportion of population using traditional biomass and coal for cooking and heating. Energy demand
Precipitation - grid Monthly total precipitation. Atmospheric composition and climate
SO2 emissions SO2 emissions, per source (e.g. fossil fuel burning, deforestation). Emissions
Temperature - grid Monthly average temperature. Atmospheric composition and climate

Output Human development component

IMAGE model variablesDescriptionUse
DALYs (disability-adjusted life years) The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability and early death. Final output
Access to drinking water and sanitation Percentage of the population with sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Final output
HDI (human development index) HDI: Development level of a country based on income, education and life expectancy. Final output
Child underweight Prevalence of undernourishment in children. Final output
Child mortality he probability per 1,000 that a new-born baby will die before reaching the age five, if subject to average age-specific mortality rates. Final output
Prevalence of undernourishment Proportion of the population with insufficient food intake to meet dietary energy requirements. Final output
Life expectancy Average life expectancy of a person born in a given year.. Final output
People living on less then USD 1.25 per day People living on less than $1.25 a day. Final output