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UN: Poor most threatened by climate change

John Heilprin
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Biswaranjan Rout/APIndian farmers load their crop onto a cart on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, India, Monday. Global warming has hit agricultural productivity, particularly wheat production in the country.
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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 Tuesday.

“They must have help from the rich world,” said Claes Johnasson, a co-author of the report commissioned by the U.N. Development Program. “Climate is forcing people into human development traps.”

Half the cost, $44 billion, would go for “climate-proofing” developing nations’ infrastructure while $40 billion would help the poor adapt how the 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 U.N. 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 (GDP),” 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 U.N. 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.

The development panel says the greatest financial responsibility lies with the U.S. and other rich nations most responsible for the accumulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, mainly from man’s burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels.

“We’re suggesting 1.6 percent of (global) GDP ” still very affordable,” Kjorven said. “The countries of the world that are the principal culprits, if you wish, for creating this problem in the first place need to act strongly to safeguard the future of those that have done nothing to cause this problem but are the most vulnerable.”

Developed countries, meanwhile, are failing to meet their targets under the current climate treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, for cutting greenhouse gases by 2012, the report said. France, Germany, Japan and Britain have reduced their emissions somewhat, it said, but the European Union is falling short of its goal of a 20 percent cut by 2020.

“To say that the industrialized countries aren’t meeting their Kyoto targets ” that remains to be seen,” said Annie Petsonk, a lawyer for the advocacy group Environmental Defense. “The targets only take effect for the years 2008 to 2012. The countries are getting ready for them.”

Petsonk said developing nations’ carbon-trading markets have the potential to generate large flows of private capital that could help provide much of the development money the U.N. recommends to help the poor adapt to global warming.

U.N. Human Development Report: http://hdr.undp.org/en/


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