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U.N. report urges aid for world's poor on global warming

  • November 27, 2007 - 6:10 PM

Developed nations must immediately help fight global warming or the world will face catastrophic floods, droughts and other disasters, according to a U.N. report released Tuesday in Brasilia, Brazil. The nearly 400-page Human Development Report comes a week before the world's nations convene in Bali, Indonesia, to negotiate a new climate treaty. Here are key findings:

1. Rich nations must pay the biggest share. That translates into providing $86 billion a year by 2015, the report said. Most of the cost, $44 billion, would go for "climate-proofing" developing nations' infrastructure, while $40 billion would help the poor cope with climate-related risks. The other $2 billion would go to strengthening responses to natural disasters. "In Bali we are going to very seriously discuss the price rich countries have to pay so that poorer countries can preserve their forests," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said. "Because you're not going to convince a poor person in any country that he can't cut down a tree if he doesn't have the right to work and eat in exchange."

Scientists believe the rain forest can act as enormous sponge to soak up greenhouse gases, but deforestation and burning in the rain forest releases millions of tons of carbon each year making Brazil one of the leading emitters of greenhouse gases.

2. Increased energy efficiency, alternative fuels and the reduction of trade barriers could help cut greenhouse gas emissions. It said Brazilian ethanol from sugarcane is more efficient than the U.S. corn-based ethanol, but is subject high U.S. import taxes meant to protect U.S. farmers. In response, the Bush administration said one of its top priorities is to alleviate poverty "by modernizing energy services."

3. Developed countries are not meeting their targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for cutting greenhouse gases by 2012. France, Germany, Japan and Britain have cut their emissions somewhat, but the European Union is falling short of its goal of a 20 percent cut by 2020.

4. Consequences could be dire. Scientists have reported temperatures rose an average 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 100 years, bringing the prospect of a century of extreme weather and widening drought and disease. "The scenario is that our generation will experience reversals on a grand scale in ... health, education and poverty. For the future there is real threat of ecological catastrophe," said lead author Kevin Watkins.

Olav Kjorven, head of the U.N. Development Program's bureau for development policy, agreed. He said because of global warming, 600 million more people in sub-Saharan Africa will go hungry from collapsing agriculture, 400 million more people will be exposed to malaria and other diseases, and an added 200 million will be flooded out of their homes. "We're suggesting 1.6 percent of GDP [global domestic product]-- is still very affordable." To read the report, hdr.undp.org/en.

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