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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Asia to bear the brunt of climate change: Report

Global warming could reverse decades of social and economic progress across Asia, where food shortages loom and more than half the continent's four billion people live along vulnerable coasts, a new report issued by Oxfam and Greenpeace has warned.

The document, "Asia - Up in Smoke", was compiled by more than 35 development and environmental groups including Oxfam and Greenpeace. It reports on the growing scientific consensus that all of Asia will warm during this century, and the results could be less predictable rainfall and monsoons affecting the food supply while tropical cyclones such as the one that devastated Bangladesh last week become more frequent or powerful.

"Asia - Up in Smoke" was released as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded its fourth assessment synthesis report in Valencia, Spain.

The report has some dire data on Asia, where more than half the population lives near coastlines that are directly vulnerable to rises in sea level.

It notes that Asia is home to 87 percent of the world's known 400 million small farms, which are all especially vulnerable to climate change because they rely on regular rainfall. An increase of just one degree Celsius in night time temperatures during the growing season will reduce Asian rice yields by 10 percent, while wheat production could fall by 32 percent by 2050. The sudden expansion of bio-fuel crops in Asia is worsening deforestation and could exacerbate global warming and threaten local people's livelihoods, the report warned.

In India there have been recent floods affecting 28 million people and widespread droughts in some Indian states. It warns that by the end of this century, China could suffer a 37 percent loss in its staple crops of wheat, rice and corn, if no action is taken.

The report recommends that the international community commit to meaningful and mandatory emissions cuts to ensure that global temperature increase stays below two degrees Celsius. It argues that rich countries must honour their commitments to renewable energy and that the potential for its use across Asia is vast. Greenpeace is calling on Asean to establish clear, binding renewables and energy efficiency targets for Southeast Asia.

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