Just days before the Bali talks that will prepare the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations released a report on the human toll climate change would have.
According to it, a full scale global warming would have dramatic consequences for hundreds of million people and the most struck would be located in developing nations.
This sounds pessimistic, but if ALL governments were moving fast and big, we would be able not only to survive but also to prosper.
On the contrary, failure to act would have catastrophic consequences.
Indeed, the UN report states that reaching the tipping point of climate change “could lock the world’s poorest countries and their poorest citizens in a downward spiral, leaving hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity, ecological threats, and a loss of livelihoods. “
According to the press release :
“Ultimately, climate change is a threat to humanity as a whole. But it is the poor, a constituency with no responsibility for the ecological debt we are running up, who face the immediate and most severe human costs,” commented UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis .
On mitigation, the authors call on developed countries to demonstrate leadership by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.
The report advocates a mix of carbon taxation, more stringent cap-and-trade programmes, energy regulation, and international cooperation on financing for low-carbon technology transfer.
Turning to adaptation, the report warns that inequalities in ability to cope with climate change are emerging as an increasingly powerful driver of wider inequalities between and within countries.
It calls on rich countries to put climate change adaptation at the centre of international partnerships on poverty reduction.
“We are issuing a call to action, not providing a counsel of despair,” commented lead author Kevin Watkins, adding, “Working together with resolve, we can win the battle against climate change.
Allowing the window of opportunity to close would represent a moral and political failure without precedent in human history.” He described the Bali talks as a unique opportunity to put the interests of the world’s poor at the heart of climate change negotiations.
The report provides evidence of the mechanisms through with the ecological impacts of climate change will be transmitted to the poor.
Focusing on the 2.6 billion people surviving on less than US$2 a day, the authors warn forces unleashed by global warming could stall and then reverse progress built up over generations.
Among the various threats a full scale climate change would bring, the UN notes that :
“An additional 1.8 billion people facing water stress by 2080, with large areas of South Asia and northern China facing a grave ecological crisis as a result of glacial retreat and changed rainfall patterns.
This is very important as it can make China decrease its greenhouse gases in an important way.
As I mentioned earlier this month, the Olympic Games that will be held next summer in Beijing are a great occasion for this gigantic country to become aware of climate change and sustainable development issues.
The press release finishes with the following optimistic statement :
Fighting climate change concludes that “one of the hardest lessons taught by climate change is that the historically carbon intensive growth, and the profligate consumption in rich nations that has accompanied it, is ecologically unsustainable.”
But the authors argue, “with the right reforms, it is not too late to cut greenhouse gas emissions to sustainable levels without sacrificing economic growth: rising prosperity and climate security are not conflicting objectives.”
I hope the lines above will be well understood by all governments present in Bali in December and that strong actions will be launched in the very next weeks and months.