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

by Luna Allison | May 11, 2010

The report the fourth in a series, compiled by more than 35 development and environmental groups including Oxfam and Greenpeace says there is growing 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 were 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.

The Asia Up in Smoke report is being released as the IPCC (Intergovernmental report on Climate Change) 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 levelled particularly against the interests of the poor and the vulnerable,” said Athena Ballesteros of Greenpeace International. “We know more than enough to act. Decisions taken in Bali must match the scale of ambition required by the IPCC’s findings.”

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:

  • Science consensus that all of Asia will warm during this century with less predictable rainfall and monsoons around which farming systems 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 per cent of the world’s known 400 million small farms which are all especially vulnerable to climate change because the rely on regular and reliable rainfall;
  • An increase of just 1
  • 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 entire nations are at risk;
  • In Bangladesh where 70 per cent of people rely on farming temperature and rainfall changes have already affected crop production;
  • In India there has been recent floods affecting 28m people and also widespread droughts in some Indian states. If no action is taken, 30 per cent of India food production could be lost;
  • 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 per cent loss in its staple crops of wheat, rice and corn.

°C in night-time temperatures during the growing season will reduce Asian rice yields by 10 per cent, while wheat production could fall by 32 per cent by 2050;

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