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FACTBOX: Climate Risks, And How To Limit Damage

Date: 04-Sep-09
Country: UNITED NATIONS
Author: Reuters

A 155-nation conference in Geneva agreed on a plan to improve climate information to help people cope with ever more droughts, floods, sandstorms and rising sea levels projected this century.

The plan for a "Global Framework for Climate Services" includes the appointment of a task force of high-level, independent advisors within four months.

This task force will prepare a report within another 12 months with recommendations for elements and implementation of the framework.

Among examples of risks and solutions from around the world given by U.N. agencies:

DISASTER RISKS

Between 1991 and 2005, natural disasters killed 960,000 people and economic losses totaled $1.19 trillion. Nine out of 10 natural disasters in the past 50 years have been caused by extreme weather and climate events.

-- The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) supplies early warnings of disasters including cyclones and dust storms. Vietnam is replanting mangroves along the Mekong River delta to help protect low-lying areas from floods as seas rise.

HUMAN HEALTH

Water-borne diseases may become more frequent because of climate change -- for instance, warmer oceans can lead to toxic algal blooms and cholera epidemics. A heatwave in Europe in 2003 caused 70,000 more deaths than normal.

-- Botswana is using seasonal rain forecasts to help predict malaria outbreaks. The forecasts give time to deploy resources against mosquitoes and provide nets to keep the insects at bay.

TRANSPORT AND TOURISM

Tourism generated $735 billion in revenue in 2006, of which $221 billion was in developing nations. Projected sea level rise this century would worsen coastal erosion and lead to the loss of beaches on tropical islands that depend on tourists.

-- Some ski resorts are using temperature projections for coming decades to site ski lifts. In Vermont, one ski resort has built a reservoir to feed water to snow-making machines.

MANAGING WATER

More than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to clean water. Drought and desertification worldwide threaten the livelihoods of 1.2 billion people.

-- Countries in the Himalayas are working to assess risks of floods from lakes, now held in behind glaciers. A thaw of the glaciers could lead to an "outburst flood."

ENERGY

In 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed more than 100 offshore oil and gas platforms off the United States. Energy industry losses from hurricanes in 2005 were estimated at $15 billion.

-- Developing countries such as India and Mali are turning to jatropha, which grows with little rain on wasteland and does not compete with crops. Jatropha can be burned as fuel, helps store carbon in the ground and slows desertification.

SECURING FOOD SUPPLIES

Climate change will disrupt farming and fishing just as the world population rises to a projected 9 billion by 2050 from more than 6 billion now.

-- Farmers in the Ningxia region of China are trying to work out better ways to allocate water during droughts and think how crops will change in the next 70 years.

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