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Climate Change May Kill Millions in Africa

By Jeremy Lovell (Reuters) - May 18, 2006

LONDON – Disease spread by global warming could kill an extra 185 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by the end of the century and turn millions more into refugees unless rich nations take action now, a report said on Monday.

Christian Aid said rich developed countries had to end their dependence on fossil fuels and set aside large sums of aid to help poorer nations ride out the worst impacts of global warming and switch to energy sources like wind, solar and waves.

“Rich countries must take responsibility for having largely created this problem — and cut CO2 emissions radically,” the non-governmental organisation said in a report “The Climate of Poverty: facts, fears and hopes”.

“Climate change is taking place and will inevitably continue. Poor people will take the brunt, so we are calling on rich countries to help them adjust as the seas rise, the deserts expand, and floods and hurricanes become more frequent and intense.”

Most scientists agree that global warming is due to burning fossil fuels for transport and power, and new calculations suggest that having risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius in the 20th century, global temperatures could surge three degrees by 2100.

Christian Aid said it based its estimate of 185 million deaths due to disease on figures from the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global warming should allow carriers like mosquitoes to expand their ranges.

FIGHT OVER SCARCE RESOURCES

Melting ice caps and glaciers were not only eroding coast lines at a rapid rate but were also raising sea levels and reducing reliable sources of fresh water.

At the same time changing weather patterns were increasing the incidence of floods and droughts, with arid regions becoming drier and wet regions getting wetter.

These changes would increase tensions as key resources like water and fertile land became more scarce, the religious charity said, noting the farmers in northern Kenya were fighting over a diminishing number of waterholes to feed their cattle.

“The unfolding disaster in east Africa, where 11 million people have been put at risk of hunger by years of unprecedented drought, is a foretaste of what it to come,” the report said.

“In this sense, the environment is too important to be left to the environmentalists,” Christian Aid said, declaring that it was switching its campaign goals to focus on the four great effects of global warming — pestilence, floods, famine and war.

The Kyoto Protocol is the only global vehicle for cutting carbon emissions, but it expires in 2012, the world’s worst polluter, the United States, rejects it and it does not commit the major developing nations to make any reductions.

As talks get under way to try to find a successor to Kyoto and encourage the United States to sign up, Christian Aid said developed nations had to slash carbon dioxide emissions by two-thirds by 2050, and major developing nations India, Brazil and China also had to agree to set tough targets for themselves.

Story by Jeremy Lovell

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE