UNITED NATIONS - Helping the world's poor adapt to more floods,
droughts and other changes from a warming planet will cost the richest
nations at least $86 billion a year by 2015, an expert panel warned
"They must have help from the rich world," said Claes Johnasson, a co-author of the report commissioned by the UN Development Program. "Climate is forcing people into human development traps."
About half the cost, $44 billion, would go for "climate-proofing" developing nations' infrastructure, while $40 billion would help the poor adapt how they live to cope with climate-related risks, says the panel's report.
The other $2 billion would go to strengthening responses to natural disasters.
The report recommends the biggest share be paid by the United States and other rich nations, based on aid targets and financing calculations by the World Bank and Group of Eight major industrialized nations.
The Bush administration said in a statement that one of its top priorities is "to alleviate poverty and spur economic growth in the developing world by modernizing energy services."
The Human Development Report each year compares nations by life expectancy, literacy and other data. This year, it focuses on climate change, coming just a week before the world's nations convene in Indonesia to negotiate a new climate treaty.
It adds a dire economic perspective to previous UN scientific findings that carbon and other heat-trapping "greenhouse gas" emissions must stabilize by 2015 and then decline.
Without the money, the panel found, a warmer world "could stall and then reverse human development" in the countries where 2.6 billion people live on $2 a day or less.
Scientists have reported that temperatures rose an average 1.3 degrees in the past 100 years, bringing the prospect of a century of extreme weather, rising seas, widening drought and disease, and harm to fisheries, forests and farmland.
According to development officials, the consequences include women and young girls having to walk farther to collect water in the Horn of Africa, and people erecting bamboo flood shelters on stilts in the Ganges River delta.
"These impacts ... go unnoticed in financial markets and in the measurement of world gross domestic product," the report said. "But increased exposure to drought, to more intense storms, to floods and environmental stress is holding back the efforts of the world's poor to build a better life for themselves and their children."
Olav Kjorven, head of the UN Development Program's bureau for development policy, called the financial aid a sort of "climate-proofing" for the poor that is only natural "when we know that the frequency of droughts and floods is going up."
Because of global warming, he said, 600 million more people in sub-Saharan Africa will go hungry from collapsing agriculture, an extra 400 million people will be exposed to malaria and other diseases, and an added 200 million will be flooded out of their homes.
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