The Post, Pakistan
With governments preparing to gather in Bali, Indonesia, to discuss the
future of the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Development
Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Report has warned that the world
should focus on the development impact of climate change that could
bring unprecedented reversals in poverty reduction, nutrition, health
The report, "Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world," launched here Wednesday provides a stark account of the threat posed by global warming. It argues that the world is drifting towards a "tipping point" that could lock the world's poorest countries and their poorest citizens in a downward spiral, leaving hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity, ecological threats and a loss of livelihoods.
The report comes at a key moment in negotiations to forge a multilateral agreement for the period after 2012 - the expiry date for the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
It calls for "twin tracks" 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 call on developed countries to demonstrate leadership by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. The report advocates a mix of carbon taxation, more stringent cap-and-trade programmes, energy regulation, and international cooperation on financing for low-carbon technology transfer.
Turning to adaptation, the report warns that inequalities in ability to cope with climate change are emerging as an increasingly powerful driver of wider inequalities between and within countries. It calls on rich countries to put climate change adaptation at the centre of international partnerships on poverty reduction.
The report provides evidence of the mechanisms through which the ecological impacts of climate change will be transmitted to the poor.
Focusing on the 2.6 billion people surviving on less than US$2 a day, the authors warn the forces unleashed by global warming could stall and then reverse progress built up over generations.
The threats identified by fighting climate change: The breakdown of agriculture systems as a result of increased exposure to drought, rising temperatures, and more erratic rainfall, leaving up to 600 million more people facing malnutrition. Semi-arid areas of Africa with some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the world will face the danger of potential productivity losses of 25% by 2060.
An additional 1.8 billion people will face water stress by 2080, with large areas of South Asia and northern China facing a grave ecological crisis as a result of glacial retreat and changed rainfall patterns.
Displacement through flooding and tropical storm activity of up to 332 million people in coastal and low-lying areas. Over 70 million Bangladeshis, 22 million Vietnamese, and six million Egyptians could be affected by global warming-related floods.
An additional population of up to 400 million people will face the risk of malaria. The authors of the Human Development Report argue that the potential human costs of climate change have been understated. They point out that climate shocks such as droughts, floods and storms, which will become more frequent and intense with climate change, are already among the most powerful drivers of poverty and inequality-and global warming will strengthen the impacts.
"For millions of people, these are events that offer a one-way ticket to poverty and long-run cycles of disadvantage," says the report. Apart from threatening lives and inflicting sufferings, they wipe out assets, lead to malnutrition, and result in children being withdrawn from school. In Ethiopia, the report finds that children exposed to a drought in early childhood are 36% more likely to be malnourished a figure that translates into 2 million additional cases of child malnutrition.
While the report focuses on the immediate threats to the world's poor, it warns that failure to tackle climate change could leave future generations facing ecological catastrophe. It highlights the possible collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheets, the retreat of glaciers and the stress on marine ecosystems as systemic threats to humanity.
The authors of the Human Development Report call on governments to set a collective target for avoiding dangerous climate change. They advocate a threshold of 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels (the current level is 0.7°C, 1.3°F).
Drawing a new climate model, the report suggests a '21st Century carbon budget' for staying within this threshold. The budget quantifies the total level of greenhouse gas emissions consistent with this goal. In an exercise that captures the scale of the challenge ahead, the report estimates that business as usual could result on current trends in the entire carbon budget for the 21st Century being exhausted by 2032.
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