Sunday, July 5, 2009
Poor face disaster from global warming
A hornbag who has managed to escape to our sunny country, from the worst places to be affected by climate change in the near future.
MOST of the gains made by the world's poorest countries over the past half a century will be lost unless action is taken on climate change, Oxfam says.
A report by the international aid agency says up to 375 million people may be affected by climate-related disasters by 2015.
"Climate change is becoming quite rapidly the central issue to do with poverty today", Oxfam Australia's chief, Andrew Hewett, told the Herald. "That also raises deep ethical dilemmas because the people least responsible for this crisis have the least resources to deal with it, and they are also those who are on the front line."
Oxfam is publishing the report, Suffering The Science-Climate Change, People And Poverty, today before this week's meeting of world leaders at the Group of Eight summit in Italy, where climate change and food security will be high on the agenda.
On the side of the G8 meeting there will also be a forum of leaders and ministers from the biggest polluting world economies, which the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, will attend.
A key issue at both meetings will be whether the US President, Barack Obama, publicly embraces the scientific goal of keeping the world's temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius in order to avoid dangerous climate change.
Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and European leaders have been urging the US to embrace the goal, and Reuters has reported that the 2-degree target has been included in the draft communique.
If Mr Obama supports the scientific goal he will raise expectations that the United Nations global climate talks in Copenhagen in December will be able to achieve an ambitious outcome. Including the 2-degree goal in the G8 communique also puts pressure on Japan, Canada and Russia to agree to tougher action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The Oxfam report stresses the importance of the scientific goal, arguing that even a 2-degree temperature rise will have serious consequences for people living in poverty.
With advancing climate change, several big cities dependent on the Himalayan and Andes glaciers will face crippling water shortages within decades, the report says. The two most important world food crops, rice and maize, will also be reduced even under mild climate change.
Hunger caused by climate change may be the defining human tragedy of this century, the report argues, and if global warming is allowed to proceed unchecked the true cost "will not be measured in dollars but in millions or billions of lives".
Oxfam argues that developing countries, especially poor ones, will need at least $US150 billion ($188 billion) a year to cope with climate change and shift to greener energy