The poorest countries in the world face the most immediate consequences from climate change even though they have contributed the least to the problem, says the UN's Human Development Report 2007/2008.
If changes are not made, the world's poorest countries could see "hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity, ecological threats, and a loss of livelihoods," says the report, 'Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world.'
United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Papa Seck, a contributing author to the report, told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday that the effects of climate change are already in motion.
"If every person in the world was emitting like the average Canadian we'd need about nine planets to absorb the CO2 (carbon dioxide) that is emitted in order to avoid dangerous climate change," said Seck. "It is the same thing for the United States."
The findings come just one week ahead of a major climate-change conference in Bali where experts will meet to negotiate a successor climate treaty to the Kyoto Accord.
Seck said Tuesday's report offers countries like Canada climate-change solutions that are attainable.
"We advocate a path that is feasible, it won't cost the world to much to achieve... we just need the political will to do it," he said.
"The world's poor just cannot afford for us to renege on our responsibilities."
The report calls for a "twin track" approach that combines "stringent mitigation to limit 21st Century warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F), with strengthened international cooperation on adaptation."
On mitigation, the authors want developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.
The report also calls on rich countries to put climate-change adaptation at the centre of international partnerships on poverty reduction.
In total, the authors say $86 billion by 2015 is needed from rich countries to help the world's poor adapt to global warming.
"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,'' says the report.
The report also calls for increased international support for the development of sub-Saharan Africa's capacity to monitor climate and improve public access to meteorological information.
"Ultimately, climate change is a threat to humanity as a whole. But it is the poor, a constituency with no responsibility for the ecological debt we are running up, who face the immediate and most severe human costs," UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said in the report.
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