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The effects of climate change are now in the news on an almost daily basis. We hear the opinions of Al Gore or how four-wheel drive vehicles affect the environment. But what kind of consequences will global warming have on Peruvian farmers and Ethiopian children? The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says they will be disastrous.
Great Britain alone emits more hothouse gasses than Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam combined. If the average temperature on Earth rises 3 or 4 degrees then the sub-Saharan African countries will lose 26 percent of their harvest. This would lead to a $26 billion loss in income, which is the amount of development assistance these countries received in 2004.g
These examples appear in the UNDP’s latest report. The organisation is the first to chart what the effects of global warming will be for developing countries. The findings show they will be dramatic. While the wealthy countries produce most of the pollution and are therefore for the most part responsible for climate change, the poorest countries will suffer the worst consequences.
Cecilia Ugaz, who does research for the UN, says climate change could erase all progress that has been achieved in the fight against poverty. She points out that more than 2 billion people in the world live under the poverty level.
The UNDP report contains a wealth of studies and statistics which convincingly demonstrate the disastrous consequences of global warming on developing countries. The chance that a resident of a developing country will be affected by a natural disaster is one in 19; for a resident of an industrialised country the chance is one in 1,500. The same applies for difference in their ability to protect themselves. Houses are being built in the Netherlands which can float when there are floods. The Vietnamese authorities provide swimming lessons and hand out lifejackets.
Ms Ugaz has made a number of concrete predictions. The rise in sea level will be disastrous for Bangladesh, where around 11 percent of the population’s homes will be threatened by flooding.
Peru’s glaciers have shrunk by 23 percent over the past 30 years. This threatens the many Peruvians whose only source of drinking water comes from the glaciers.
According to the UNDP, Ethiopian children who are born during serious dry spells have a 35 percent greater chance of being undernourished at the age of five. This has consequences for their ability to learn later in life and their chances of finding work.
Call for action
The UN organisation is calling for immediate action. It says Third World countries should play a central role in the negotiations at the Bali Climate Change Conference in December. The UNDP will also make a number of commitments: wealthy countries must decrease their carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent, while poor countries will have to reduce them by 20 percent. Moreover, poor countries will need $86 billion to help protect themselves from the worst effects of climate change. For instance, they will have to build dykes to defend themselves from the rising sea level.
Ms Ugaz says that poor countries must also change their prerogatives. If they want their economies to continue to grow they must use new technologies and clean energy.
The UNDP calls on the wealthy countries to change their way of thinking. Ms Ugaz says that if we want to continue to live on this planet we must learn to work together. Children in Ethiopia and villagers in Peru who are not responsible for climate change need the help of people in the industrialised nations. Ms Ugaz says the word solidarity must again become fashionable.
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