Millions of vulnerable people in Asia bearing the brunt of climate crisis, says new report

Press release - November 19, 2007
Global warming is set to reverse decades of social and economic progress across Asia, home to more than four billion people or 60 per cent of the world’s population, according to a new multi-agency report published today called 'Up in Smoke: Asia and the Pacific.'

Greenpeace today flys "Stop Global Warming" balloon over the Mae Moh coal plant in Lampang, Thailand. The flight is part of Greenpeace's "Choose Positive Energy" campaign that is demanding the Thai government commits to renewable enegry at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg.

The report--the fourth in a series, compiled by more than 35 development and environmental groups including Oxfam and Greenpeace--says there isgrowing consensus about the huge challenges facing Asia. However it notes "reason to hope" that there is now enough knowledge about the causes of climate change, how the world must tackle it, and how people in Asia must continue to adapt to it. Immediate action is vital, it says.

Just days before the 'Asia-Up in Smoke' report was released, one of the most vulnerable countries in the region was hit by a severe cyclone."Bangladesh features prominently in the report as a country where millions of poor people, etching out a living on farmlands and coastal areas, are already bearing the brunt of man-made climate change. While cyclones of this magnitude reveal the extreme vulnerability of poor communities, the ongoing erratic weather conditions experienced the world over mean a daily struggle for the millions of poor people who rely on the land and sea for their survival. Oxfam wants to see governments taking both mitigation and adaptation efforts seriously now and in the future," says Oxfam International's Bert Maerten (1).

'Asia-Up In Smoke' is being released as the IPCC concluded its Fourth Assessment Synthesis report in Valencia, Spain. The IPCC highlighted "unequivocal" climate change already occurring and warned that man-made global warming could lead to abrupt or irreversible impacts.

"We must not gamble with the future of the planet. The stakes are too high and leveled particularly against the interests of the poor and thevulnerable," said Athena Ballesteros of Greenpeace International. "We know more than enough to act. Decisions taken in Bali must match thescale of ambition required by the IPCC's findings."

 

Click here to download the full report

As world leaders prepare for important UN talks in Bali next month to determine an international response to climate change, the 'Asia Up in Smoke' report shows:

  • Scientific consensus that all of Asia will warm during this century with less predictable rainfall and monsoons--around which farmingsystems are designed--and more extreme tropical cyclones;
  • More than half the population of Asia live near the coast and are directly vulnerable to rises in sea-level;
  • Asia is home to 87 percent of the world's known 400 million small farms which are all especially vulnerable to climate change because therely on regular and reliable rainfall;
  • An increase of just 1°C in night-time temperatures during the growing season will reduce Asian rice yields by 10 percent, while wheatproduction could fall by 32 percent by 2050;
  • The sudden expansion of biofuel crops in Asia is worsening deforestation and could exacerbate global warming and threaten local people's livelihoods;
  • People from small island states like Vanuatu, Kiribati, and Tuvalu in the Pacific have already fallen victim to sea-level rises and entirenations are at risk;
  • In Bangladesh--where 70 percent of people rely on farming--temperature and rainfall changes have already affected crop production;
  • In India there has been recent floods affecting 28 million people and also widespread drought in some Indian states. If no action is taken, 30 percent of India's food production could be lost; and
  • In northern China massive droughts have resulted in severe agricultural losses. If no action is taken, by the end of this century China could suffer 37 percent loss in its staple crops of wheat, rice and corn.

The report gives detailed analysis on the implications of climate change in to poor people living in Bangladesh, central Asia, China, India,Indonesia, the Philippines, East Timor, the Lower Mekong and Malaysia, Nepal and Pakistan, and the Pacific Islands. It also shows that positivemeasures are being taken by local governments and people to reduce emissions and cope with climate change now.

It looks at how climate change is affecting people's health, access to energy, migration and urban poor, women, vulnerable crops, water anddrought, seas and coasts, disasters, biodiversity, and the environment.

'Up in Smoke' recommends that the international community commit to meaningful and mandatory emissions cuts to ensure that global temperature increases stay below 2°C. It says rich countries must honor their commitments to renewable energy and that the potential for its useacross Asia is vast; India alone has the potential to provide 60 per cent of its electricity with renewable sources by 2050. Rich countriesmust stop using restrictive intellectual property rules and allow the transfer of green technologies to developing countries.

The international community must also urgently assess the full global costs facing poor countries having to adapt to climate change, and givenew funds. The report notes that rich country subsidies to their domestic fossil fuel industry stood at $73 billion per year in the late1990s. It also says that crisis responses must be better planned, organized, and funded, and that vulnerable communities must be helped tocope and prepare for climate-related disasters.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) heads of state, with the participation of other Asian countries such as China and SouthKorea, will be convening in Singapore from November 19 to 21. Climate change and energy security occupy the regional group's agenda. "The verymeeting that will determine the fate of the planet is taking place in ASEAN's backyard. If ASEAN intends to be relevant to the region's needs,it must support a Bali Mandate for the extension and expansion of the Kyoto Protocol towards a second commitment period with deeper emissionscuts," Ballesteros said. Greenpeace is calling on the ASEAN to establish clear, binding renewables and energy efficiency targets for Southeast Asia.

Other contacts: Nicky Wimble, Communications Manager, Oxfam International: +66 8 18147756 Athena Ballesteros, Campaigner, Greenpeace International: +63 917 8131562 Red Constantino, Campaigner, Greenpeace International: +63 917 5241123 Oxfam works with others to overcome poverty and suffering. Oxfam GB is a member of Oxfam International, a company limited by guarantee and registered in England No. 612172. Registered office: Oxfam House, John Smith Drive, Cowley, Oxford, OX4 2JY Registered charity No. 202918.

VVPR info: Download Asia--Up In Smoke report at: http://www.greenpeace.org.ph/smoke

Notes: (1) While no single extreme weather event, such as the cyclone that took place in Bangladesh last week, can be directly attributed to climate change, the IPCC is projecting an increase in the frequency of such severe weather events.