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Climate Change "[The world has] already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere...Climate change is for real. We have just a small window of opportunity and it is closing rather rapidly. There is not a moment to lose" - Dr Rajendra Pachauri Chairman Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change1

A disaster for humanity and nature According to the World Health Organization climate change impacts are already claiming around 160,000 human lives globally every year, through, for example, extreme weather, disease and malnutrition 2 . The WHO and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Diseases predict this number could double by 2020.3 On 7th January 2004, in Nature, nineteen eminent biological scientists published the findings of a study concluding that global warming could ‘commit to extinction’ between 18% and 35% of animal and plant species by 2050 based on the seven globally representative regional samples they studied. This means that, by 2050, even under ‘minimal climate warming scenarios’ (meaning those that are now inevitable) nearly one in five (around a million) species could be beyond saving. They concluded that “anthropogenic climate warming at least ranks alongside other recognized threats to global biodiversity. Contrary to previous projections, it is likely to be the greatest

1

Comments made while Dr Pachauri addressed international conference attended by 114 governments in Mauritius. Reported in

The Independent (U.K.), (2005), Pachauri: Climate Approaching Point of "No Return": Global Warming Approaching Point of No Return, Warns Leading Climate Expert, by Geoffrey Lean, January 23rd.

2

3

World Health Organization. (2003), Climate Change and Human Health: Risks and Responses As reported in, for example, Environment News Service, 1st October 2003, Climate Change Already a Killer

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threat in many if not most regions.�

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Feeling the heat The 1990s were the hottest decade ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere. Seventeen of the twenty hottest years ever have occurred since 1980 and nine of the ten hottest since 1995. The years 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 are the five hottest years on record globally5. While 1998 was the hottest year ever, some of the highest point temperatures ever recorded occurred during 20036. Heat waves struck China and India in 2003. In India records were broken as the temperature hit 49 degrees C and at least 1500 people died as a result7. In Europe, during 2003, heat waves, droughts and forest fires is estimated to have killed over 30,000 people and caused over US$13 billion damage to European agriculture alone8.

Rising waters But climate change is not just about hotter weather. In Asia during August 2003 the heat waves gave way to typhoons and floods affecting 600,000 people. In China flooding, landslides and Typhoon Dujuan killed at least 86 people and caused US$700 million reported in losses in August and early September. Twelve days of heavy rain in the northern province of Shaanxi led to some of the worst flooding in 40 years for

4

Nature, 8th January 2004, Extinction risk from climate change, letter to Nature:

http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v427/n6970/full/nature02121_fs.html

and reported in for

example, BBCi, Climate risk 'to million species', 7th January 2004, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3375447.stm 5

World Meteorological Organization statements (2004, 2003 and 2002), see - http://www.wmo.ch/web/Press/Press718_E.doc,

http://www.wmo.ch/web/Press/Press702_en.doc, http://www.wmo.ch/web/Press/Press684.pdf. 6

ibid

7

World Meteorological Organization statements (2003), see - http://www.wmo.ch/web/Press/Press702_en.doc,

8

United Nations Development Programme – GRID, (2003) Early Warning on Emerging Environmental Threats: Impacts of

summer 2003 heat wave in Europe

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the region. Approximately 4.9 million people were affected.9 In 2004 severe flooding returned in eastern and southern China affecting 100 million people and causing more than 1000 deaths10. Recently announced findings conclude that climate change could leave more than 2 billion people at risk of flood devastation by 2050. Floods already affect more than 520 million people worldwide and claim around 25,000 lives every year, but the numbers at risk are increasing fast because of more frequent extreme weather events linked to global warming. Rising sea levels as polar glaciers melt increases the risks and deforestation reduces protection in affected areas. Floods in Asia - the worst-affected continent - between 1987 and 1997 claimed 228,000 lives and caused economic losses of an estimated $ 136bn11. Meanwhile sea levels are rising and threatening coastal areas and low lying regions – for example Hong Kong and Shanghai. In addition to the annual rise as oceans expand there is new and alarming evidence that the polar ice caps are melting faster than previously thought. Significant melting of the glaciers at the poles could lead to metres of sea level rise in the long term, inundating vast sections of human society12. Economic disaster Climate change is a disaster for the economy too. In 2003 climate change related damages cost the world economy over $60 billion13. After the European heat wave, the second most costly event of that year was most likely the floods along the Huai and Yangtze Rivers in China between July and September 2003. Some 650,000

9

United States National Climatic Data Service (2003) – Global hazards and significant events August 2003, see -

http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2003/aug/hazards.html#Tropical-duj#Tropical-duj (accessed 4 February 2005) 10

World Meteorological Organization statements (2004) see - http://www.wmo.ch/web/Press/Press718_E.doc,

11

The Guardian (London, June 14, (2004), Flood risk to 2bn by 2050, says study, Tim Radford Science editor

12

NewScientist (2005), Review 2004: Global meltdown as poles disintegrate by Jenny Hogan , 25 December – see –

http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18424796.100 13

United Nations Environment Programme (2003), Weather Related Natural Disasters in 2003 Cost the World Billions – see –

http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=363&ArticleID=4355&l=en (accessed 4th February 2005)

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apartments were damaged with overall losses estimated at nearly US$ 8 billion14. The reinsurance group Munich Re have studied costs of climate impacts over the period from the 1950 to the present day and found that the cost is roughly doubling every decade. If it continues to grow at that rate, the cost of damage caused by climate change will exceed global gross domestic product as early as 206515. Extreme weather disasters made 2004 the most expensive year for the insurance industry ever. Statistics released at the COP10 climate change conference in Buenos Aires in December 2004, showed that natural disasters across the world in the first 10 months of the year cost the insurance industry just over $35 billion, up from $16 billion in 2003. The cost to the global economy was correspondingly greater since these losses were only what the insurance industry had to pay out.16

Climate Impacts in China Glacier retreat The world’s highest ice fields, in the Himalaya, are melting so quickly that they are on course to disappear within 100 years 17 , increasing floods and turning verdant mountain slopes into deserts. The scientific study in 2004 from the Chinese Academy of Science showed that in the past 24 years China’s 46,298 glaciers have undergone 5.5% shrinkage by volume. This melting is a loss equivalent to more than 3,000sq km of ice cover If the climate continues to change at the current pace, fully two-thirds of China’s glaciers would disappear by the end of the 2050s, and almost all would have melted by 2100. Dr. Yao Tandong, who led the 50 scientists in the study, said that the 14

ibid

15

See http://www.munichre.com/ and also Munich Re and Dr Andew Dlugolecki statements reported for example in Insurance

Journal, 2nd December 2001, The Global Picture: Debate Over Climate Change Continues to Storm http://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/west/2001/02/12/features/17826.htm (accessed 5th February 2005) 16

2004 Among the Hottest Years on Record, December 16, 2004, Kevin Gray, Associated Press

17 The Guardian (Beijing, September 24, 2004), Highest icefields will not last 100 years, study finds China's glacier research warns of deserts and floods due to warming, seehttp://www.guardian.co.uk/life/science/story/0,12996,1311574,00.html Page 4 of 9


Himalayan glacier fields are crucial sources for many of China’s great rivers. As the ice diminishes at high altitudes the supply of fresh water to the rivers below will decline. Shrinking rivers and water shortages are already critical problems for China which glacier loss will exacerbate.18

Drought The American National Atmosphere Research Centre released a study in January 200519 finding that from the 1970s till the present day, the global area affected by drought has doubled due to climate change. The study found widespread drying occurred over much of the world including Asia, and identified rising global temperatures as the major factor for increased drought. In China, drought is a big problem and getting worse. North and west China, but also southeast China including the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta has all been affected. In November 2004, drought in the southeast affected 5,100,000 km2 agriculture and about 40 million people. This most recent drought has caused water shortages for more than 9 million people and more than 6 billion in estimated economic losses.20 Agriculture IPCC (1998) report states that large negative impacts on rice production could occur as a result of climate change, and would increase the pressure of feeding China’s large population21. It is estimated that Chinese harvests may be reduced by 5 to 10 percent by 2030 due to the global warming22. More recently a joint Chinese-UK study found that China’s rice production could drop by as much as one fifth by 2080 in a worst

18

Science in China, Ser. D Earth Sciences, 2004, 34(6):535-543, The retreat of Tibet-Qinghai Plateau

and the impact to the water resources in northwest China, by Dr. Yao Tandong, Liu Shiyin, etc. 19

National Centre for Atmospheric Research, University of Colorado AR, Boulder, Colorado (2005 - Jan 10th) see press notice at

- http://www.ucar.edu/news/releases/2005/drought_research.shtml (accessed 7th February 2005) 20

National Climate Centre, China Meterological Administration, Jan 4th, 2005, Extreme events in China in 2004, see -

http://www.cma.gov.cn/news/meteonews/t20050104_55079.phtml 21

IPCC. (1998) The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 22

http://www.china.org.cn/english/environment/104909.htm - reprint of Xinhua News agency report.

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case scenario.23

IPCC (1998) states that large negative impacts on rice production could occur as a result of climate change, and would increase the pressure to feed China’s large population. The following agricultural areas are likely to be the most affected by climate change, with greater risk of drought and increase in soil erosion. the area around the Great Wall lying south-east of the transition belt between crop agriculture and animal husbandry the Huang-Hai plains, where dryland crops like wheat, cotton, corn, and fruit trees are grown the area north of Huaihe river that lies along the south edge of the temperate crop zone the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river the Loess Plateau.

Flooding The greatest potential flood hazard in the world is in Asia. Between 1987 and 1997, 44% of all flood disasters worldwide affected Asia, claiming 228,000 lives (roughly 93% of all flood-related deaths worldwide). Economic losses in the region in that decade totaled US $136 billion24. In China, floods in 1998 for example cost up to $30 billion in economic losses and killed an estimated 4,150 people. In September 2003, more than 430,000 people were evacuated and 4,9 million people affected after severe flooding in China's Shaanxi province; at the same time the most serious tropical storm in 24 years hit the south-eastern province of Guangdong destroying 54,000 homes and causing economic losses of more than $280 million 25 . In 2004 severe flooding

23

Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK (2004) –

see – http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/chinareport/ and also press statement by UK Minister of Environment available at – http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2004/040913a.htm. 24

UNU, issued July - August 2004, Two billion will be in flood path by 2050, UNU expert warns, See –

http://update.unu.edu/archive/issue32_2.htm 25

Stratfor.com China: Natural Disasters Test Hu's Mettle Sep 08, 2003 Summary

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returned in eastern and southern China causing landslides and affecting 100 million people and causing more than 1000 deaths26.

26

World Meteorological Organization statements (2004), WMO STATEMENT ON THE STATUS OF THE GLOBAL

CLIMATE IN 2004 Fourth Warmest: see - http://www.wmo.ch/web/Press/Press718_E.doc,

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Climate Impacts in China Glacier retreat The world’s highest ice fields, in the Himalaya, are melting so quickly that they are on course to disappear within 100 years, driving up sea levels, increasing floods and turning verdant mountain slopes into deserts. The scientific study in 2004 from the Chinese Academy of Science showed that in the past 24 years China’s 46,298 glaciers have undergone 5.5% shrinkage by volume. This melting is a loss equivalent to more than 3,000sq km of ice cover. If the climate continues to change at the current pace, fully two-thirds of China’s glaciers would disappear by the end of the 2050s, and almost all would have melted by 2100. The Himalayan glacier fields are crucial sources for many of China’s great rivers. As the ice diminishes at high altitudes the supply of fresh water to the rivers below will decline. Shrinking rivers and water shortages are already critical problems for China which glacier loss will exacerbate. Drought The American National Atmosphere Research Centre released a study finding that from the 1970s till the present day, the global area affected by drought has doubled due to climate change. In China, drought is a big problem and getting worse. North and west China, for example the Huaihe River basin and the area to its north where the impact could seriously worsen water shortage problems 27 . Drought is also affecting southeast China including the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta have all been affected. In November 2004, drought in the southeast affected 5,100,000 km2 agriculture and about 40 million people. This most recent drought has caused water shortages for more than 9 million people and more than 6 billion in estimated economic losses. Paradoxically these areas also face floods since Huahie River is also a flood risk in periods of increased run-off such as winter and spring and the southeast is inundated almost annually. Agriculture 27

IPCC: Special Report on The Regional Impacts of Climate Change An Assessment of Vulnerability – see –

http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc/regional/271.htm (accessed Februuary 6th 2005)

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IPCC (1998) report states that large negative impacts on rice production could occur as a result of climate change, and would increase the pressure of feeding China’s large population. It is estimated that Chinese harvests may be reduced by 5 to 10 percent by 2030 due to the global warming. More recently a joint Chinese-UK study found that China’s rice production could drop by as much as one fifth by 2080 in a worst case scenario. Flooding The greatest potential flood hazard in the world is in Asia. Between 1987 and 1997, 44% of all flood disasters worldwide affected Asia, claiming 228,000 lives (roughly 93% of all flood-related deaths worldwide). Economic losses in the region in that decade totaled US $136 billion28. In China, floods in 1998 for example cost up to $30 billion in economic losses and killed an estimated 4,150 people. In September 2003, more than 430,000 people were evacuated and 4,9 million people affected after severe flooding in China's Shaanxi province; at the same time the most serious tropical storm in 24 years hit the south-eastern province of Guangdong destroying 54,000 homes and causing economic losses of more than $280 million29. In 2004 severe flooding returned in eastern and southern China causing landslides and affecting 100 million people and causing more than 1000 deaths30.

28

UNU report on floods

29

Stratfor.com China: Natural Disasters Test Hu's Mettle Sep 08, 2003 Summary

30

World Meteorological Organization statements (2004) see - http://www.wmo.ch/web/Press/Press718_E.doc,

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