Government leaders must take urgent action to ensure that weather-related hazards, which are becoming more intense and frequent due to climate change, do not lead to a corresponding rise in disasters, a new United Nations-backed report released today said.
The new study identified India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia as being among global warming’s “hotspots,” or countries particularly vulnerable to increases in extreme drought, flooding and cyclones anticipated in coming decades.
Commissioned by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the non-governmental organization (NGO) CARE International, it examined the possible consequences of global warming in the next 20 to 30 years.
The so-called hotspot nations are already facing considerable political, social, demographic, economic and security obstacles, the report said.
“Climate change will greatly complicate and could undermine efforts to manage these challenges,” said Charles Ehrhart, one of its authors, who serves as Climate Change Coordinator for CARE International.
The impact of a natural disaster is determined by several factors, such as access to proper equipment and information, as well as the ability to exert political influence, he noted. “The striking lack of these explains why poor people – especially those in marginalized social groups like pastoralists in Africa, women and children – constitute the vast majority of disaster victims.”
The report cited the most effective means to curb human vulnerability to disasters are: boosting the ability of local and government institutions to respond to crises; empowering local people to have a stronger say in disaster preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation; and providing services and social protection for the most vulnerable populations.
The authors expressed hope that point out hotspots around the world will spur leaders to take action and encourage aid workers to modify their strategies to take into account the realities of new risks posed by climate change.
The new study’s launch coincided with the gathering of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that kicked off yesterday in Accra, Ghana.
The seven-day event is the latest round of UN-sponsored global climate change negotiations, bringing together more than 1,600 participants to discuss future greenhouse gas emission reduction targets ahead of a major summit set for 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark.