24 October 2005
An increase in aid for Africa agreed at the Gleneagles summit may be entirely consumed by the cost of dealing with climate change, the President of the Royal Society, the UK national academy of science, has warned Margaret Beckett and other G8 energy and environment ministers in an open letter published today (24 October 2005) ahead of their key climate change meeting in London on 1 November.
The letter from Lord May of Oxford urges the G8 ministers to recognise the
impacts of increasing drought conditions in Ethiopia and more severe hurricanes
in the United States that may already be occurring due to climate change, and to
agree further action to combat greenhouse gas emissions. The meeting is the
first to be held since G8 leaders agreed at Gleneagles to establish a dialogue
on climate change, and is due to be addressed by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair,
and the head of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz.
The letter also calls for the G8 to back an international study into the
level at which greenhouse gases should be stabilised in the atmosphere to avoid
dangerous climate change. It suggests that the action plan agreed at the
Gleneagles summit in July fell far short of a strategy to stop the rise in
greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
Lord May's letter states: "As long as greenhouse gas concentrations continue
to rise, there is the very real prospect that the increase in aid agreed at
Gleneagles will be entirely consumed by the mounting cost of dealing with the
added burden of adverse effects of climate change in Africa. In effect, the
Gleneagles communiqué gave hope to Africa with one hand, through a promise of
more aid, but took that hope away with the other hand through its failure to
address adequately the threat of climate change." It adds: "Therefore, if the
increase in aid and other measures outlined in the Gleneagles action plan on
Africa are to create maximum benefit, they must be accompanied by effective
action on climate change by stopping the inexorable rise of greenhouse gas
levels in the atmosphere."
The letter draws attention to a collection of 17 scientific papers, also
published today, which examine the impact of climate change on crops. It
highlights a paper that concludes that rising sea surface temperatures in the
Indian Ocean are responsible for a drop in rainfall in Ethiopia since 1996.
Lord May's letter also warns of the impact that climate change may already be
having on richer countries, such as the United States. It states "Although it is
not possible to say that the destructive potentials of hurricanes Katrina, Rita
and Wilma were greater because of global warming, a connection is likely and
certainly cannot be ruled out." The letter points out that the $200 billion
estimated cost of dealing with the impacts of Hurricane Katrina is equivalent to
1.7% of the gross domestic product of the United States, compared to estimates
that it would cost no more than 1% of GDP for the country to meet its target
under the Kyoto Protocol. It concludes: "Clearly dealing with even some of the
consequences of climate change, such as more destructive hurricanes, looks more
costly than taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
You can read the full letter by clicking the 'related pages' link on
the right of this page.
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