12:00 AM, November 28, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 28, 2007

Climate change to take heavy toll on Bangladesh

UN human development report portrays grim future

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Ashfaq Wares Khan

Bangladesh is among the countries to be worst-affected by climate change that may cause a large-scale reversal in human development, says the latest UN Human Development Report (HDR) released yesterday.
The report fears climate change will hit the poorest countries the most by breaking down agricultural systems, worsening water scarcity, increasing risks of diseases and triggering mass displacement due to recurring floods, and storms like the recent Cyclone Sidr.
Describing the effects of climate change on the poorest as apocalyptic, the HDR states, "Those who have largely caused the problem--the rich countries--are not going to be those who suffer the most in the short term. It is the poorest who did not and still are not contributing significantly to green house gas emissions that are the most vulnerable."
"The near-term vulnerabilities are not concentrated in lower Manhattan and London, but in flood-prone areas of Bangladesh and drought-prone parts of sub-Saharan Africa," said Kevin Watkins, the lead author of the report titled Fighting Climate Change.
This year's human development index ranked Bangladesh at 140 among 177 nations, the same spot as last year's.
The HDR report cautioned that temperature scenarios do not capture the potential impact of climate change on human development. "Business-as-usual scenarios will trigger large scale reversals in human development, undermining livelihoods and causing mass displacement."
UNDP administrator Kemal Dervis in his introduction to the report said, "It is the poor, a constituency with no responsibility for the ecological debt we are running up, who face the most immediate and severe human costs."
With only 15 percent of world population, rich countries account for nearly half of global carbon dioxide emissions, with the United States leaving a carbon footprint that is nearly 70 times higher than in Bangladesh.
The HDR strongly urged the developed nations to show leadership by cutting emissions by at least 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, and put climate change adaptation at the centre of international poverty reduction programmes.
According to the report, human development faces a 'massive threat' with up to 300 million people living in coastal regions being displaced by increased frequency of floods and storms like Sidr.
Climate change is also likely to cause breakdown of agricultural systems that would significantly affect Bangladesh, leaving large sections of people facing malnutrition.
The global figure of the population at risk cited by the report is 600 million. Forty-seven percent of children in Bangladesh are already malnourished.
The report states that an additional 1.8 billion people are at risk of water scarcity by 2080, with hundreds of millions at increased risk of contracting diseases like Malaria.
The UNDP report called upon nations to adopt a 'twin-track' approach with measures to mitigate future warming while helping at-risk nations to adapt to human-induced climate change.

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