Global warming will 'push Asia into reverse' says report

By staff writers
November 20, 2007

The biggest study yet from a unique coalition of major UK poverty and environment groups, including church and Christian groups, has said that immediate action is needed before global warming pushes asia 'into reverse'.

A new report – Up in Smoke? Asia and the Pacific – with a foreword by Dr R.K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – says that without immediate action, global warming is set to reverse decades of social and economic progress across Asia, home to over 60 per cent of the world’s population.

The report is published in the wake of evidence that the UK is reneging on targets for renewable energy set to tackle climate change.

Up in Smoke? Asia and the Pacific is the concluding chapter of a unique, four-year long exercise by the Up in Smoke coalition – an alliance of the UK’s major environment and development groups including aid agencies and Christian groups.

Four years ago, the coalition set out to assess the impacts of climate change on efforts toward poverty reduction around the world from the point of view of practical, community-based organisations engaged in designing responses to a changing environment. This, the latest and most comprehensive report from communities around the world on the front line of climate change catalogues the threat climate change poses to human development, and the growing consequences of inaction on the issue.

The report shows how, across Asia, people and communities are already acting to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. But the report says, there is not a moment to lose. Unless a decisive international agreement is reached, and soon, the lives of those living on the front line of climate change will go up in smoke.

World leaders are currently preparing for the next UN talks to determine the international response to climate change, in Bali at the beginning of December.

The report highlights that in the summer of 2007, British aid agencies, had to raise funds from the UK public to go towards assisting up to 28 million people affected by flooding in South Asia. Extreme weather events like this are likely to become more frequent the report says.

Over half of the population of Asia live near the coast, making them directly vulnerable to sea-level rise driven by global warming. Asia is also home to 87 per cent of the world’s known 400 million small farms – all especially vulnerable to climate change as they rely on regular and reliable rainfall.

Drought in north China has increased, ruining the livelihoods of the region’s farmers. And, around 8 out of 10 glaciers in western China are reportedly in retreat due to climate change.

The latest global scientific consensus indicates that all of Asia is set to warm during this century, and that this will be accompanied by less predictable and more extreme patterns of rainfall. Tropical cyclones are projected to increase in magnitude and frequency across the region, while monsoons, around which farming systems are designed, are expected to become more unpredictable in their strength and time of onset.

The expansion of biofuel crops linked to deforestation could, instead of being a climate friendly alternative to fossil fuels, actually worsen global warming and harm local livelihoods and the environment.

Communities living on small island states like Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tuvalu, scattered across thousands of square kilometres of ocean in the Pacific, among the least responsible globally for climate change, have already fallen victim to the impacts of climate change. Entire nations are now at risk the report says.

The report catalogues the impact that climate change is already having on some of the worlds most vulnerable communities - just last month, a reported 5 million people were affected when a typhoon struck the south- east coast of China.

The report also presents new evidence that the ‘silver bullet’ of biofuels could turn into a rush for ‘fools gold’ across Asia as huge social and environmental costs outweigh the benefits, substantiating concerns already raised by aid and environment groups, and scientists.

The Working Group on Climate Change and Development are: ActionAid International, Bird Life International, Care, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Columban Faith and Justice, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Institute for Development Studies, IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development), MedAct, nef (the new economics foundation),, Operation Noah, Oxfam International, Panos, People and Planet, Practical Action, RSPB, Tearfund, teri Europe, World Vision and WWF.

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