Global warming set to reverse growth: Report

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, November 19: | Updated: Nov 20 2007, 01:59am hrs
A new report Up in Smoke Asia and the Pacific with a foreword by RK Pachauri, Chairman of the Nobel prize-winning 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 released in New Delhi on Monday jointly by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), ActionAid, Greenpeace India and WWF said that India is large country with close to 700 million people living in rural areas who depend on climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, forests, and fisheries for their livelihoods. Its ecosystems such as riversheds , mangroves, coastal zones, forests and grasslands are already overburdened by environmental pressures from commercialisation , excessive resource use and indiscriminate dumping of industrial and agricultural waste.

The report is the fifth in the series from the Working Group on Climate Change and Development which consists of ActionAid International, Bird Life International, Care, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Columban Faith and Justice, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Institute for Development Studies, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), MedAct, The New Economics Foundation (NEF), onecliamte.net, Operation Noah, Oxfam International, Panos, People and Planet, Practical Action, RSPB, Tearfund, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), World Vision and WWF.

The study also said that India has already 250 million people that live in absolute poverty with little capacity to cope with climate change. About 400 million people living in the Ganga Basin will be further affected by water shortages in the near future. Many more will be affected by floods and droughts due to erratic monsoons and the fast depletion of Himalayan glaciers.

Around 600 million Indians depend on agriculture, which, unlike the rest of the economy, has been crawling along at a growth rate of less than 2 per cent per annum. Production has been stagnant, per capita availability of food is declining, farmer suicides and hunger deaths are on the rise, and agrarian distress is acute and widespread. These trends will be further accentuated due to climate change.

Some vulnerable sections of society like women, tribal communities, scheduled castes will bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change. Women, for example, will spend a greater and greater amount of their time in arranging for food, fuel and water for their families, the report said.

Regarding recent cyclonic storm in Bangladesh, the Working Group on Climate Change and Development said that in the Sundarbans, already four islands have been completely submerged, displacing about 6,000 families. These families have the misfortune of being India's foremost Climate Refugees

The report is released in the wake of evidence that a majority of Industrialised countries are reneging on targets for emissions reductions set to tackle climate change and to facilitate world leaders to deliberate on the issue in the up coming UN Framework on Climate Change meeting in Bali in Indonesia in early December.

"While going through the foreword that I wrote for the 2004 volume of Up in smoke, I find that the concerns and priorities that I had touched on as part of that write-up, if anything, have become stronger, and the uncertainties associated with what I had stated then have been reduced significantly. The IPCC findings provide the evidence for the same." RK Pachauri, Director General, TERI and Chairman, IPCC said .

Alongside new evidence of the devastating impact that climate change is already having on communities across Asia, Up in Smoke Asia and the Pacific, shows positive measures that are already being taken by governments, by civil society and by local people to reduce the causes of climate change and to overcome its effects. It shows examples of emissions reduction; alternative water and energy supply systems; preservation of strategic ecosystems and protected areas; increasing capacity, awareness and skills for risk and disaster management; and the employment of effective regulatory and policy instruments.

The South Asian NGOs grouping themselves under the umbrella Climate Action Network South Asia demanded appropriate policy and fiscal measures for dealing with the immediate future impacts of climate change, suggested moving towards sustainable, low carbon intensity energy pathways, while not compromising on development goals. planned adaptation measures in climate sensitive sectors, especially water and agriculture and disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness in vulnerable areas.