West's failure over climate change 'will kill 182m Africans'

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The poorest people in the world will be the chief victims of the West's failure to tackle global warning, with millions of Africans forecast to die by the end of the century, Christian Aid says in a report out today.

The potential ravages of climate change are so severe that they could nullify the efforts to end the legacy of poverty and disease across developing countries, the charity says.

The report highlights the fact that, despite hand-wringing in the West about the threat to its coastlines from rising temperatures, it is the poorest who are likely to suffer most. It estimates that a "staggering" 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa could die of disease directly attributable to climate change by 2100. Many millions more face death and devastation from climate-induced floods, famine, drought and conflict.

Sir John Houghton, former co-chairman of the scientific assessment working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has given his support to the report's findings. "This report exposes clearly and starkly the devastating impact that human-induced climate change will have on many of the world's poorest people," he said.

Its warning came on the eve of a meeting of nearly 200 nations this week in Bonn which hopes to close the gap between the US and its allies over the best way to combat climate change.

While 40 nations are committed to cutting carbon emissions in line with the Kyoto protocol, the US and leading developing countries such as China have refused to sign.

Kyoto obliges rich nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Few experts expect the Bonn talks to break new ground.

The summit of the leaders of the Group of Eight rich nations chaired by Tony Blair in Gleneagles last July agreed to develop markets for clean energy technologies, increase their availability in developing countries, and help vulnerable communities adapt to the impact of climate change.

Last week the head of environment at the World Bank said the world needed to do more to protect the poor from global warming. "As a development institution we have to focus on the fact that millions of people will suffer from climate change," Warren Evans said. "The last G8 pushed African development but didn't focus on the impact of climate change on Africa. We need to catch up on our understanding of that."

The World Bank said in its most recent assessment, that developing and transition countries would require investment of $300bn a year over the next 25 years.

In its report, The climate of poverty: facts, fears and hopes, Christian Aid calls on rich countries to fund a switch from fossil fuels to clean energy sources. Britain has pledged to cut CO2 emissions by more than the Kyoto target - 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010 - but the report urges the Government tocommit to a 33 per cent reduction by 2050.

The warnings

* 182 million people in sub-Saharan African could die of disease by 2100.

* Average global temperatures could rise by between 1.5C and 6C by 2100; sea levels are set to rise by between 15cm and 95cm.

* The number of people affected by storms and floods has increased from 740 million to 2.5 billion people since the 1970s.

* Up to 3 million people die of malaria each year. Warmer, wetter weather will help the disease to spread.

* Climate change could reduce Africa's crop yields by 10 per cent.

Source: Christian Aid

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