Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Professor Martin Parry


    —  The attached documentation[1] shows that hundreds of millions of people are expected to be additionally at risk as a consequence of climate change: due to water shortage, hunger, coastal flooding and disease.

    —  These risks to life and well-being are concentrated in developing countries, especially those in Africa and southern Asia. For example, of the 50 million people estimated to be newly at risk from hunger due to climate change by about 2050, almost all these are expected to be in Africa.

    —  Even a substantial reduction in greenhouse emissions does little to reduce such risks in the coming century. Reductions that are 10 times those envisaged by the current Kyoto targets might halve the number threatened, but it would require an emissions cut double this (i.e. 20 times Kyoto) to bring risk levels down from hundreds to tens of millions.

    —  Consequently, the conclusion is that substantial impacts from climate change are inevitable, especially in developing countries, and adaptation will be essential in order to avoid the most negative consequences. Mitigation alone will not avoid the problem.


    —  Yet ongoing research suggests that the scale of such effects is very dependent on the future pathways of population growth and economic development. A world with a more equitable distribution of wealth and lower population levels will experience much smaller levels of negative impact from climate change, than a world where we assume "business-as-usual" (eg high population growth and low levels of development in Africa compared with other regions). In other words, how we shape the future world influences our future vulnerability to climate change.

    —  To illustrate, the estimated levels of risk of hunger due to climate change under a sustainable world [2] are less than a third those under a "business-as-usual" world. Almost all this reduction is due to different levels of population and wealth rather than different amounts of emissions and consequent climate change.

    —  This suggests that the most effective form of response to climate change is to devise climate policies as part of an overall strategy for sustainable development that, by both reducing poverty and increasing technological/managerial ability, reduce the exposure to hunger, flooding, water shortage and disease, and also increase the ability to adapt to such challenges.

Professor Martin Parry,

Jackson Environment Institute,

School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

January 2002

1   See M Parry, N Arnell, T McMichael, R Nicholls, P Martens, S Kovats, M Livermore, C Rosenzweig, A Iglesias and G Fischer, Millions at Risk: Defining Critical Climate Change Threats and Targets, Global Environmental Change 11.3 (2001): 1-3. Also available at Back

2   The sustainable world here is that defined by the IPCC as B2, and "business-as-usual" is A1FI (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report, Geneva, 2002). Back

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