Select Committee on International Development Third Report


The science and politics of climate change


3. The world's climate is governed by a long-term balance between the energy absorbed by the Earth and the energy that it radiates back into space. Radiation from the sun is either absorbed by the Earth or reflected back into space. Energy absorbed by the earth is re-radiated as heat. Some of this heat is trapped by greenhouse gases in the lower part of the atmosphere where winds, ocean currents, evaporation and precipitation help to distribute it. Without the greenhouse gases to trap some heat the Earth would be more than 30ºC cooler. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour and nitrous oxide. As emissions of greenhouse gases increase, more radiation is absorbed by them, affecting the long-term energy balance and consequently raising the global temperature.


4. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, to:

5. The IPCC's three working groups[4] conduct surveys of technical and scientific literature. The IPCC's assessment reports are widely regarded as the most credible sources of information available on climate change.[5] Assessments in 1990, 1995 and 2001 all stressed the need for immediate action on climate change. The latest report is the most definitive yet and table 1 summarises its key conclusions.

Table 1: The major conclusions in the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Summary for policy makers[6]
Recent regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases, have already affected many physical and biological systems.
There are preliminary indications that recent increases in floods and droughts have affected some human systems.
Natural systems are vulnerable to climate change, and some will be irreversibly damaged.
Many human systems are sensitive to climate change, and some are vulnerable.
The potential for large scale and possibly irreversible impacts poses risks that have yet to be reliably quantified.
Projected changes in climatic extremes could have major consequences.
Adaptation is a necessary strategy at all scales to complement climate change mitigation efforts.
Those with the least resources have the least capacity to adapt and are the most vulnerable.
Adaptation, sustainable development, and enhancement of equity can be mutually reinforcing.

Figure 1: Annual temperature trends for the periods 1901 to 2000, 1910 to 1945, 1946 to 1975 and 1976 to 2000 respectively. Trends are represented by the area of a circle with red representing increases, blue representing decreases and green little or no change[7] (See paragraph 6)

Figure 2: Variations of the Earth's surface temperature: years 1000 to 2100. From years 2000 to 2100 projections of globally averaged surface temperature are shown for six SRES scenarios and IS92a using a climate model with average climate sensitivity. The shaded region marked 'several models all SRES envelope' shows results for the full range of scenarios and models with different sensitivities. Temperature scale is departure from 1990 value.[8] (See paragraph 6)

Figure 3: Atmospheric CO2 concentration from year 1000 to year 2000 from ice core data and from direct atmospheric measurements over the past decades. Projections of CO2 concentrations for the period 2000 to 2100 are based on six SRES scenarios and IS92a.[9] (See paragraph 6)

Figure 4: Annual mean change in temperature for scenarios A2 and B2 showing 2071 to 2100 relative to 1961 to 1990. Regions are classified to show level of agreement on magnitude of warming with a consistent result from at least nine models being necessary for agreement.[10] (See paragraph 7)

Figure 5: Annual mean change in precipitation for scenarios A2 and B2 showing 2071 to 2100 relative to 1961 to 1990. Regions are classified to show level of agreement on magnitude of warming with a consistent result from at least nine models being necessary for agreement.[11](See paragraph 7)

Figure 6: Projected changes in average annual runoff by the year 2050, relative to average runoff from 1961 to 1990. These largely follow projected changes in precipitation. Changes are shown for two versions of the Hadley Centre Model HadCM2 and HadCM3[12] (see paragraph 25).

6. Climate change isn't something that is going to happen—it has begun already. The IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR), published in 2001, identified several changes that had already taken place. During the 20th century the global average surface temperature had increased by about 0.6ºC. Figure 1 shows annual temperature trends from 1901 to 1999. Figure 2 shows the variations in the earth's surface temperature for the years 1000 to 2000 with projections to 2100 based on different development scenarios (see paragraph 7). The TAR noted that snow and ice cover had decreased while sea levels and ocean heat content had risen. Figures 3 shows the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide from the year1000 to the year 2000, and projections from 2000 to 2100. The TAR observed that the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere had risen; carbon dioxide was at its highest concentration for the past 420,000 years and the rate at which its concentration is increasing was unprecedented in at least the last 20,000 years. Richard Manning, DFID, said "¼the direction of climate change is now fairly clear, but the pace of climate change is highly uncertain.".[13] The extent to which climate change is due to human activity is difficult to assess against a background of natural climate variability and socioeconomic change.[14] But, based on significant advances in the science of climate change and progress in modelling the earth's natural systems, the IPCC concluded "there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last fifty years is attributable to human activities".[15]

7. In recent years, the ability of computer models to project changes in climate has improved. The models use a variety of scenarios to assess the implications of following different development paths.[16] Across all scenarios all climate models have predicted a rise in global average temperature (ranging from1.4ºC to 5.8ºC between 1990 and 2100) and sea level (ranging from 0.09 to 0.88 metres between 1990 and 2100). Figures 4 and 5 show projected changes in temperature and precipitation for two different scenarios.

8. IPCC assessments represent a consensus among climate experts. Yet the IPCC recognises that several areas of uncertainty remain and it continues to explore these. Its assessments are all subject to peer review and its conclusions are robustly tested. However, some commentators still claim climate change is either far worse than predicted, not that serious, or possibly beneficial. Bjørn Lomborg, an Associate Professor of Statistics at the University of Aarhus, attracted some media attention by challenging the view that the environment was spiralling out of control and man was destroying the planet.[17] His analysis has been resolutely and robustly destroyed.[18] Some people have suggested that global climate change is not a recent phenomenon and that changes are part of a natural cycle of ice ages and warm periods. Others dispute the significance of current and past measurements claiming that data for the period before the1960s is unreliable. Some scientists argue that the global climate cannot be modelled accurately and that predictions using current models are flawed. More recently some have suggested that the sun, sun spots, solar flares and solar winds could play a larger part in global warming than industrial greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC has examined these different views and still concluded that human activity had been the main cause of climate change over the last fifty years. Research cannot completely eliminate uncertainty and it is not possible to quantify all the environmental, social and economic impacts before taking action.[19] Although the IPCC's view represents the best knowledge to date and many of the sceptics claims have been resolutely rejected, significant uncertainties remain in the science of climate change and the impacts it is likely to have. Therefore, we believe that the precautionary principle must underpin any approach to climate change and the consensus provided by the IPCC should provide the basis for action.


9. Climate change has tended to be the preserve of climate scientists and environmental groups.[20] There has been little inter-disciplinary work. Few linkages exist between environmental and poverty issues, and between climate change and sustainable development. Differences between environmental NGOs and development NGOs do not help. The evidence given to the Environmental Audit Committee highlighted the differences between Clare Short and environmental NGOs.[21] Clare Short told us that the 'northern greens' often adopted an anti-development perspective. Although borne of a genuine concern for the planet, this perspective failed to recognise the needs of the poorest people. She argued that their needs had to be met through economic growth and material well-being.[22] She recognised that "¼to have a real environmental sustainability we have got to get the greens to join up with the development people, to see what we have got to have is a guarantee to development for the poor countries and the poor people within a sustainable planet.".[23] For their part, environmental NGOs claim they have become more conscious of the need to bring together environmental, social and economic concerns together in an integrated approach to development. We believe that progress has to be made in bringing environmental and developmental view points together. Taking only an environmental approach will not achieve real sustainability. Economic and sustainable use of natural resources that seeks to maximise social welfare and recognises the need to make trade-offs, will do more to eradicate poverty and ensure long-term sustainability than environmental conservation alone.

10. Developed and developing countries also have different views on climate change.[24] The North predominantly sees climate change as an environmental issue. Usually it is the environment ministries and those responsible for environmental protection that lead on national policy and take part in international negotiations.[25] Discussion has moved from social and political concerns to more narrowly focused scientific debate—a process know as scientisation. As a result, the humanitarian and development perspective of climate change has often been overlooked.[26] Development and humanitarian agencies have been largely absent from the fora where climate change has been discussed, and more narrowly-focused conservation and scientific agendas have dominated debate. The two international conventions agreed at the 'Earth Summit' in Rio, in 1992, both arose from an agenda shaped by northern environmental interests. In Rio, concerns about industrial pollution, smog and acid rain dominated the discussions. But these issues did not necessarily apply to developing countries. In particular, the UNFCCC was closely associated with an environmental agenda that sought to conserve resources and promote environmental sustainability. Developing countries have a different view of climate change to developed countries. They see it not as a problem of pollution or of how to sustain economic growth but as a problem of human welfare that threatens survival itself.[27]


11. Burning fossil fuels, for electricity, heat and transport, is the main source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, making climate change primarily a consequence of the activities of industrialised countries. Tables 2 and 3 show the huge difference between the ten countries with the highest emissions and the ten with the lowest emissions. The US alone accounts for twenty-four per cent of all current emissions.[28] According to the Corner House just over 120 corporations account for eighty per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions.[29] The world's poor have contributed less than one third of anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and methane and less than twenty per cent of industrial emissions.[30] Saleemul Huq, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), told us that per capita emissions in China and India were many times smaller than those of developed countries; many, like Bangladesh, had per capita emissions that were negligible compared with the rest of the world.[31] Senegal, for example, emitted about thirty kilograms, 160 times less than the US where emissions were nearly five tonnes per head.[32] However, emissions from developing countries have increased and could increase further as they meet the growing demand for energy and as land use changes. By 2015 emissions from developing countries are likely to exceed those from the developed world.[33] China, India, and Brazil in particular have seen their emissions grow.[34] Clare Short recognised that as the economies of developing countries grew they would need to come within the framework for mitigating greenhouse gases.[35] In fact, this is required under the UNFCCC.

12. While past and present generations, mainly in the North, bear responsibility for creating climate change, it is future generations throughout the world who will be most severely affected. The present generation has to begin to bear the costs of finding a solution even though it will see little direct benefit itself. Given their relative contribution, the burden of finding a solution to the problems posed by climate change should fall mainly on developed countries. As the scientific understanding of climate change grows and evidence for the link between anthropogenic emissions and climate change becomes stronger, the issue of liability will come to the fore. We have already suggested that there is a moral liability but at some point the issue of legal liability will have to be considered.

Table 2: Ten countries with highest emissions[36]
Industrial CO2 Emissions (kt)
United States
United Kingdom

Table 3: Ten countries with lowest emissions[37]
Industrial CO2 Emissions (kt)
The Comoros
San Tome and Principe
Solomon Islands
The Gambia
Central African Republic
Congo, Rep.

13. Carbon dioxide concentrations are a global phenomenon and it does not matter geographically where reductions in emissions are made but they should be made as cost effectively as possible. There are political reasons why countries may feel reductions should occur in a particular country and many of the barriers to progress on climate change are political.[38] The obstacles to progress lie not in a lack of ideas or technical know-how, but in the vested interests of governments, businesses, consumer groups, energy utilities and people's everyday practices.[39] The international community has developed a wide range of tools and mechanisms to deal with climate change but lacks the political will to drive them forward.[40] The G8 countries could tackle greenhouse gas emissions by reforming their patterns of consumption and production without the need for complex global mechanisms. But the massive changes that would be needed are seen as politically unpalatable; a Europe-wide carbon tax was vetoed following an organised and influential lobby on the behalf of industry.[41] Some progress, albeit small, is being made with progress on the Kyoto Protocol, the EU Emissions Trading Directive and the UK Emissions Trading Scheme.

14. Political barriers also limit progress in the South, where climate change often loses out to shorter-term competing priorities. Saleemul Huq stressed how difficult it was to get high-level politicians and policy makers to accept climate change as a pressing problem that needed action to be taken immediately. According to him, there were people in governments who were aware of the threat posed by climate change but their voices were not being heard at the higher levels of policy making.[42] The timescale is urgent and the UK and other donors have to take a lead in building capacity so that policy makers and politicians in developing countries can understand climate change in the context of the local issues facing their country, and translate that understanding into effective policies and mechanisms.

The Impacts of climate change

15. Climate change affects food security, water, biodiversity and infrastructure and therefore will have a dramatic impact on livelihoods. Computer models suggest that climate change will have both adverse and beneficial effects (see table 4).

Table 4: Some potential adverse and beneficial impacts of climate[43]
Adverse impacts
Beneficial impacts
Reduced crop yields
Decreased water availability
Increased risk of flooding
Risk from sea level rise
Increased exposure to vector-borne diseases such as malaria
Increased exposure to water borne diseases such as cholera
Increase in heat stress mortality
Increased crop yield in some areas
Increased timber supply
Increased water availability in some previously water scarce areas
Reduced winter mortality
Reduced winter energy demand in some areas

16. Increases in temperature have already begun to affect several physical and biological systems and changes have been observed in aquatic, terrestrial and marine environments.[44] More frequent floods and droughts are already having an impact on natural, social and economic systems. Some of these initial impacts will cause secondary effects;[45] impacts that occur only in developed countries could have a knock-on effect on developing countries[46] and impacts in developing countries could cause population displacement or increased humanitarian need with implications for developed countries.

17. DEFRA's memorandum recognised that the potentially huge economic, human and environmental costs of climate change could create political tensions between countries, increasing regional instability.[47] Coupled with population growth, this could lead to conflict over diminishing fresh water resources and fertile land.[48] The World Meteorological Organization's submission pointed out that such conflict could adversely affect sustainable development.[49]


18. The impacts of climate change will not be evenly spread across the globe[50] and are likely to fall disproportionately on the poor.[51] Richard Manning, DFID, said "¼on the whole the most vulnerable people are likely to be the poor people.".[52] The Tyndall Centre's research in Vietnam showed that those already marginalised in an economy were likely to suffer the greatest impact as they had the fewest resources for coping with adverse change.[53] Climate change will make social and economic development harder.[54] In developing countries, it could set back development efforts by several decades unless development plans and strategies recognise climate risk.[55] Climate change has the potential to increase further the inequality between developed and developing countries. As with corruption and HIV/AIDS, climate change could undermine development investment. However, unlike corruption or HIV/AIDS, climate change is not widely recognised as a problem because many of its impacts are gradual and long-term.


19.Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation will place hundreds of millions of people additionally at risk from either hunger, water shortage, coastal flooding or malaria.[56] Those people additionally at risk live mainly in Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia. The IPCC regards Africa, Asia, Latin America and small island states as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change while having little capacity to adapt.[57]

20. The impacts of climate change on Africa are particularly worrying (see figure 7). Coastal settlements, which are often important engines of economic growth, will be adversely affected by rising sea levels.[58] Most African rivers are highly sensitive to climate change and will be adversely affected by an increase in both the frequency and magnitude of droughts, floods and storms. Food security, already a problem in many parts of Africa, could worsen as climate change is likely to exacerbate desertification and cause grain yields across much of Africa to decline. As the climate changes, infectious diseases are likely to spread to areas previously unaffected.[59]

21. In Asia and Latin America, extreme events are likely to be more severe and to occur more frequently, with an associated reduction in water quality.[60] Increased exposure to infectious diseases will affect health in both Asia and Latin America. In some parts of Asia, heat stress will increase. Rising sea levels and increased flooding will cause population displacement in much of Asia.[61] In Asia agricultural productivity will decline and water will become more scarce in some areas.

22. Small island states are likely to suffer many of the impacts that will affect coastal areas (see paragraph 27) and are particularly at risk from rising sea levels.[62] Most their critical infrastructure tends to be located on the coastline, where much of socioeconomic activity on islands tends to take place. Rising sea levels will accelerate coastal erosion, loss of land and dislocation of people. An eighty centimetre sea-level rise could inundate two-thirds of the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. A ninety centimetre rise could see eight-five per cent of Male, the capital of the Maldives inundated.[63] With limited agricultural land available for food production, any loss of land through coastal erosion or increased salinity could adversely affect food security. Small island states are particularly vulnerable to any increased ferocity and frequency of storms. The already limited access to fresh water is likely to be made worse as flooding and rising sea levels cause saltwater intrusion into freshwater sources. Tourism is important for many small island states and any increase in storm frequency, coral bleaching, beach erosion, or loss of fisheries (for angling) could deter tourists.[64] Andrew Bennett, DFID, said that some small island states were so fragile that they were likely to become uninhabitable.[65]

Figure 7: Selected key impacts for Africa.[66]


23. The natural variability of rainfall and temperature are the main climatic factors behind variability in agriculture.[67] Any change in climate variability will therefore have an impact on food production, with both positive and negative impacts on food security.[68] Dryland and rain-fed agriculture are the mainstays in tropical regions. In these regions crops already grow at the limit of their temperature tolerance and yields are likely to decrease with even a small increase in temperature.[69] More frequent droughts will also reduce crop yields in many parts of the world. But in developed countries, where multi-cropping and irrigation are used, climate change could increase yields. In Bangladesh, the delta's high fertility has attracted many farmers; more than eighty per cent of the population in the delta depend on the land for a living. But, as flooding becomes more frequent, soil salinity is increasing. Ultimately, people will be displaced not only by rising sea levels and more frequent floods but by a loss of their livelihood.[70] The distribution of pests and vector-borne diseases could be extended into previously unaffected areas.[71] Identifying winners and losers from climate change is difficult because of a number of variables, most important of which is the capacity to adapt. Projections are climate model and scenario dependent. India, Thailand, Colombia and many sub-Saharan countries are likely to be losers while China, Mexico and Kenya could see gains.[72] Many of the losers will already have large populations of very poor people.

Table 5: The impact of climate change on food supply[73]
Impacts on food supply
     Less water combined with heat stress will probably reduce the global yield of major food staples (wheat, rice, maize) by 5 to 10 per cent by 2050
     Greatest reductions are expected to be in Africa (except in equatorial Africa), the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent.
     Reduced food production likely to increase food prices by more than 15 per cent.

Effects on risk of hunger
     With low income groups less able to afford sufficient food, hunger is estimated to increase, probably by about an additional 50 million at risk of hunger by 2050.
     Projected increase in hunger due to climate change is almost entirely in Africa, due to high vulnerability because of poverty and weak infrastructure.
     The poorest groups are most likely to be negatively affected.

24. Food demand will continue to grow, with growing population and wealth, and reductions in crop yields may lead to increased prices. The poor, already the most at risk of hunger, would become more vulnerable as food prices rise.[74] The countries that suffer lower yields will rely increasingly on food imports to bridge the gap between supply and demand, but developing countries will often lack the foreign exchange needed to import food. A combination of falling domestic production and reduced food imports could further increase food prices.[75] As the areas of food production shift, infrastructure and systems for transport and distribution will need to be improved so that food can be easily moved from growing areas to the areas of the world where it is needed.


25. Water is a finite resource unevenly distributed across the globe and often only seasonally available.[76] Demand for water has increased as populations have grown and economic development has taken place. About one third of the world's population now lives in countries that are water stressed and twenty per cent of the world's population does not have ready access to drinking water, while forty per cent lack sanitation facilities.[77] Climate change imposes yet another pressure.[78] It will affect the quantity and timing of rainfall which will in turn affect the volume, timing and quality of river flows and groundwater recharge.[79] As a result, the size and frequency of floods could increase in many areas.[80] Figure 6 (see page 14) shows projected changes in annual runoff by 2050 for two different climate models. Higher temperatures will increase evaporation rates making water stress more acute. Given that around seventy per cent of the world's available fresh water is used in agriculture, any impact on water resources could have a knock-on effect on food security.[81] However, there will be some positive impacts and a few arid areas, such as parts of Southeast Asia, may benefit from increased water availability.[82]

Table 6: The Potential impacts of climate change on water resources[83]
Under most climate change scenarios, southern and western Africa and the Middle East are projected to see reduced river flows and recharge.
Possible changes in south Asia are less clear: some scenarios suggest reduced runoff (greater drought risk) while others show increased runoff (greater flood risk).
Substantial effect on people living in areas that are currently water-stressed, most of which are in developing countries.
Access to safe water will probably be influenced by climate change, especially in rural areas, although access to sanitation is likely to be relatively unaffected.

26. Many other pressures, such as population growth, economic development and changes in land use, also influence water resources. Without effective resource management, vulnerability to climate risk could increase but uncertainty about the effects of climate change makes it difficult to plan and design schemes to manage water resources.[84] Flexible schemes are better than those that cannot be altered or upgraded.[85] Where water systems are stressed, poorly managed or unmanaged, the impacts of climate change are likely to be worse. However, such systems offer the greatest potential for implementing a variety of 'no-regrets' options. 'No-regrets' options bring benefits regardless of their impact on climate and will have a positive impact even if climate risk has been over-estimated. The adoption of flexible management approaches and policies (such as increasing access to safe water) that can cope with current climatic variability and help reform poorly performing systems will help to reduce vulnerability to climate change. Drought preparedness and contingency planning are essential in building capacity to cope with climatic risks. We recommend that all development proposals associated with water resources should consider the potential effects of climate change on the ability of the proposed scheme to deliver its objectives. The impact of the project on the vulnerability of all stakeholders, including those who could be indirectly affected, should be examined. Taking a precautionary approach would mean that projects should represent no-regrets solutions that seek to optimise current systems while building in flexibility to cope with the uncertainties posed by climate change.


27. Coastal areas are already threatened by erosion, saline intrusion, flooding, tsunamis and indirect effects from man's activities.[86] Climate change will cause sea surface temperatures to rise and sea-ice cover to decrease. Salinity, wave conditions and ocean circulation may change.[87] Most coastal areas will be affected by more frequent and increasingly severe storms.[88] Sea-levels will rise due thermal expansion and through the melting of land-based glaciers, such as those in the Alps.[89] As sea levels rise, most coastal areas will experience increased flooding, loss of wetlands, contamination of freshwater. Africa, South and Southeast Asia, will be particularly affected by flooding, with lesser impacts in East Asia.[90] A sea-level rise of thirty centimetres would displace one to two million of the six million people living in the Niger Delta. A sea-level rise of one metre would see two to three million people displaced in the same area.[91] Saleemul Huq said a one metre sea level rise would inundate a fifth of Bangladesh and displace far more than a fifth of the population.[92] Rising temperatures are likely to have a negative impact on coastal ecosystems, particularly mangroves, which will have knock-on impacts for fish and fisheries. Coral reefs are likely to suffer bleaching and reduced calcification rates. We agree with Robert Nicholls, one of our expert witnesses, that DFID could help to promote sustainable development of coastal areas by:

  • encouraging efforts to improve understanding of vulnerability;
  • promoting more evaluation of the implications of climate change in coastal areas, particularly in vulnerable regions; and,
  • enhancing coastal management capacity so that it can deal with the full range of issues, including climate change.[93]

Table 7: The Impacts of climate change on coasts[94]
Increased levels of inundation and storm flooding
Accelerated coastal erosion
Seawater intrusion into fresh groundwater
Encroachment of tidal waters into estuaries and river systems
Elevated sea-surface and ground temperatures
Impact on biodiversity and fisheries from a loss of mangroves and coral bleaching

28. Coastal populations are growing rapidly.[95] The urbanisation and increasing population density of low-lying coastal areas are common features of many developing countries: both increase vulnerability.[96] Coastal megacities are at risk from rising sea levels, severe storms and flooding.[97] The number of coastal megacities grew from two in the 1950s to thirteen by 1990. By 2010 more than 320 million people could be living in as many as twenty coastal megacities, with much of the growth in cities in developing countries. There were no megacities in developing countries in the 1950s but by the 1990s there were nine, and there could be as many as sixteen by 2010.[98] These figures probably underestimate the numbers affected as many people live in large conurbations rather than tightly defined cities. Areas of squatter and informal urban settlement are highly vulnerable and lack the capacity to adapt to climate change.[99]


29. Climate change will have a number of direct and indirect impacts on human health. Mortality and morbidity associated with heat waves will increase, particularly for urban populations, the elderly and those already weakened by illness. With more flooding, the risk of drowning will increase as will the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases.[100] Reduced crop yields could result in hunger and malnutrition, with consequential increases in developmental diseases and reduced adult activity.[101] Vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever (which already affect nearly half the world's population), are likely to spread to areas previously unaffected. The population displacement and economic disruption associated with climate change could have secondary impacts on health.

Table 8: The impacts of climate change on human health[102]
Changes in distribution and seasonal transmission of malaria and other diseases transmitted by insects and ticks (e.g. dengue, mosquito-borne viruses, leishmaniasis).
Increase in food and/or water borne diseases, particularly diarrhoeal diseases, as higher temperatures encourage the growth of microorganisms and more erratic rainfall increases the frequency of contamination of surface water.
Increased cardiorespiratory mortality in relation to heatwaves.
Decreased cold-related deaths
Increased malnutrition and nutritional diseases with reduced crop yields
Increased risk of drowning with changes in frequency and/or intensity of weather disasters


30. The IPCC's TAR predicts an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The rapid urbanization in coastal areas is increasing the numbers of people who will be exposed to climatic extremes.[103] In the last decade the frequency of disasters has increased rapidly; the worst flooding in the Mekong Delta in 2000 followed record levels of flooding in 1998 and 1999. By contrast, the number of non-climate natural disasters has remained largely unchanged. Increases in rainfall intensity and rising sea-levels are expected to drive an increase in flooding and landslides. This will have a direct impact on human settlements, especially informal squatter settlements.

31. Disasters pose a serious threat to development and particularly the development of the world's poorest and most marginalised people. Vulnerable populations do not always have time to recover from one disaster before the next one strikes.[104] Many are affected year after year with a crippling impact on their ability to rebuild sustainable livelihoods. People may be forced into a situation where they have to exploit the environment in an unsustainable way, further increasing their vulnerability. For example, people displaced by flooding might turn to illegal logging to provide firewood, which in turn causes more rapid runoff and increased flash flooding.

Table 9: Key points from the 2001 World Disasters Report[105]
The year 2000 saw the highest number of disasters in the last decade, while 2001 saw the second highest
The number of geophysical disasters has remained fairly constant, but the past two years have seen the highest number of weather-related disasters reported over the decade.
A total of 39,073 people were reported killed by disasters in 2001, nearly double the figure for the previous year. However it was lower than the decade's annual average of around 62,000.
Over the decade hydro-meteorological hazards have claimed 71 per cent of all lives lost to disasters.
From 1992-2001, countries of low human development (LHD) have accounted for just one-fifth of the total number of disasters, but over half of all disaster fatalities. On average 13 times more people die per reported disaster in LHD countries than in countries of high human development (HHD).
In the Americas, floods accounted for 45 per cent of all deaths from disasters. In Asia, drought/famine claimed 58 per cent. In Europe, earthquakes claimed 58 per cent, while in Oceania, tidal waves claimed 66 per cent.
Last year, a total of 170 million people were reported affected by disasters—below the decade's average of 200 million.
Drought/famine affected over 86 million people last year, many of those living in central and south Asia.
In the past ten years, drought/famine accounted for 82 per cent of all those affected in Africa, 48 per cent in Oceania and 35 per cent in the Americas. Meanwhile, floods accounted for 69 per cent of all those affected in Asia. And windstorms accounted for 36 per cent of those affected in the Americas, and 33 per cent in Europe.
The total estimated damage due to disasters during 2001 was US$ 24 billion—the decade's lowest and well below the annual average of US$ 69 billion.
Deaths from natural disasters fell from nearly 2 million in the 1970s to just under 800,000 in the 1990s.
Numbers reported affected by natural disasters rocketed from just over 700 million in the 1970s to nearly 2 billion in the 1990s.
Global figures hide some significant variations between the continents. Apart from Africa and Europe, the rest of the world reported substantial increases in the numbers of disaster fatalities in the past two decades. For Oceania, deaths tripled from one decade to the next, while for Asia deaths were up 41 per cent and for the Americas up 32 per cent. Meanwhile, the figures for those affected have more than tripled in Europe and increased 12-fold in Oceania.

Figure 8: A breakdown of natural disasters in 2001 by geographical region.[106]

Figure 9: A breakdown of natural disasters in 2001 by type of disaster.[107]

32. The cost of ordinary and extreme weather events has increased rapidly in recent years.[108] Figure 10 shows that global losses due to weather related disasters have escalated drastically and also shows that most of the losses are uninsured. Early warning systems can help to mitigate loss of life but by themselves can do little to prevent economic losses or reduce the numbers of people affected. Fewer people are killed in natural disasters now than in the first half of the 20th century. However, more people than ever before are being affected, many losing their livelihoods. Extreme weather events also increase disease burdens, damage infrastructure and result in a loss of trade. We recommend that DFID support renewed efforts to mitigate climatic disasters, including international standards for early warning, response and recovery. International climate adaptation funds should adopt disaster mitigation as a high priority.

Figure 10: Long-term statistics for natural disasters, 1950-1999 showing a dramatic increase in the number of disasters and losses incurred.[109]

33. Unless international funds are available for reconstruction following disasters, the increase in climatic extremes could lead to economic stagnation in many developing countries.[110] Developing countries have largely agrarian economies that are more vulnerable to climate change; in developing countries, the loss of GNP because of natural disasters is twenty times greater than in industrialised countries. However, there is no standardised approach to making estimates of economic loss and direct comparisons of estimates are not always appropriate. Sometimes indirect costs such as loss of trade are included while others only include the direct costs of damage to infrastructure. Following a disaster, the temptation to inflate estimates of loss to qualify for government financial assistance makes some data unreliable. The insurance industry is concerned about mounting property losses especially as current socioeconomic trends are concentrating assets in risk prone areas.[111] Unanticipated changes in risk could have a major impact on insurance companies and their investors with knock-on social and economic consequences.[112] Climate change could make the actuarial data used by insurance companies useless and the insurance industry may have to develop new scenarios and models for sharing risk globally. Climate change is likely to affect the risk and return characteristics of particular industries and countries, with an impact on their potential to attract investment.[113]


34. Some research work is ongoing. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is working with policy makers and scientific communities on monitoring not only agricultural production, animal and plant diseases, and environmental conditions but also climate change through various programmes, including: GTOS (Global Terrestrial Observing System), AFRICOVER (project for mapping land cover in Africa), and the FAO Sustainable Development Department, which produces global climate maps.[114] IPCC Working Group I identified a special need to increase observational and research capacities in many regions of the world.[115] Nigel Arnell, University of Southampton, told us that the IPCC's most recent assessment had showed that there were very few studies of the impact of climate change on water resources in developing countries and data on the hydrological conditions in Africa was poor.[116] The RSPB argued that research into impacts and adaptation strategies should be done at a local level because local knowledge was essential for proper understanding.[117] Martin Parry, Jackson Environment Institute, said there was "¼an incredible imbalance of information available between the North and South¼". More information is needed on vulnerability hot-spots in order to help understand likely impacts, the nature of vulnerability, the role of existing coping strategies and the need for interventions that strengthen coping strategies.[118] While most of the witnesses called for further impact studies, neither of the witnesses from the Tyndall Centre, Neil Adger and Katrina Brown, felt that work on adaptation needed to wait for more studies.[119] We believe that further research on climate change impacts is needed but that work on adaptation should not wait until such research is complete, given that many of the options will have a positive impact regardless of climate considerations and are worth doing anyway. These are sometimes called 'no-regrets' options.



35. Vulnerability to climate change is determined by social, institutional and economic factors and their sensitivity to climate impacts, as well as by institutional capacity, the ability to adapt, and location.[120] As the conditions within a country change, so does its vulnerability. National vulnerability will increase if the main centres providing economic growth are located in vulnerable areas.[121] For example, those countries whose populations and economically productive enterprises are in coastal zones will face a higher risk. IPCC Working Group II noted that the communities that are the most vulnerable to climate change were also subject to pressures from population growth, resource depletion and poverty. Rapid urbanisation, land degradation, water pollution, water scarcity, and the destruction of ecosystems are also added pressures. All these factors affect vulnerability to variations in the current climate, as well as to future climate change.


36. Developing countries have limited financial, human, technological, institutional and natural resources,[122] making them less able to respond to the effects of climate change.[123] Their economies often rely heavily on agriculture and other sectors that are particularly vulnerable to climate change.[124] The greater vulnerability of their ecosystems and settlement patterns means developing countries are more exposed to the adverse effects of climate change and less able to capitalise on any benefits than developed countries. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras, with the loss of thousands of lives, the destruction of seventy per cent of the country's roads and bridges, and the main pillar of the economy—the agricultural sector—almost wiped out.[125] Countries are particularly vulnerable where people are dependent on resources that are vulnerable to climate change. Agricultural activity, vitally important in so many developing countries, often takes place in low-lying areas that are susceptible to sea level rises, Bangladesh being the obvious example.

37. Increased vulnerability is a product of failed social and economic development. But it is not only the poor who are vulnerable. Many people with reasonable livelihoods are vulnerable if extreme weather events could destroy or significantly disrupt their livelihoods. Katrina Brown, Tyndall Centre, said that there was a special need "¼for DFID to remember that poverty does not necessarily equal vulnerability¼" in targeting its interventions.[126] DFID should sponsor vulnerability assessments in developing countries and use the information to help target work on adaption where vulnerability is greatest, rather than focusing work on adaptation only on the poorest. In most cases it will be the poorest who are the most vulnerable.

Myths of climate change

38. Several myths associated with climate change are examined in table 10.

Table 10: Myths of climate change
Climate change is an issue of deep uncertainty. Uncertainty has characterised climate change, especially regarding the large scale effects such as the impact on the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) switch, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), or the role of methane hydrates.
However, for many impacts there is much greater confidence.
IPCC WGII presented impacts with scales of confidence that can be used to support different kinds of action now.
We can adapt to climate change.Adaptive capacity is unevenly spread across the globe. Those most vulnerable are often the least able to adapt.
There is a limit to what adaptation can achieve. Not all small islands states will be able to adapt to sea level rise, some countries in Africa may find it difficult to adapt to further water stress.
Climate change is a green issue.Climate change has economic and social impacts that will last for decades.
It will threaten economic development in some countries.
Environmental policies alone cannot tackle climate change and there is a need to engage the private sector in investment decision-making.
We know what to do.We have imperfect forecasts, but can formulate robust strategies for managing changing climatic risk.
Reducing present vulnerability is essential, but not enough on its own
Monitoring, preparedness, building capacity to link climate and development is critical.

Working Groups of the IPCC are: (i) Science, (ii) Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability; and (iii) Mitigation Back

5  Third Report from the Science and Technology Select Committee, Session 2000-2001, Scientific Advisory System: Scientific Advice on Climate Change, HC14 Back

6   Downing, 2002, Protecting the vulnerable from climate change: Lessons from food security. Based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in Managing the earth Pub Oxford University Press. Back

7  Report of IPCC Working Group I: Technical Summary, 2001 Back

8  IPCC 2001, Third Assessment Report, Synthesis Report-Summary for Policy Makers Back

9  IPCC 2001, Third Assessment Report, Synthesis Report-Summary for Policy Makers Back

10  IPCC 2001, Third Assessment Report, Synthesis Report-Technical Summary Back

11  IPCC 2001, Third Assessment Report, Synthesis Report-Technical Summary Back

12  Ev 45 Back

13  Q2 Back

14  Ev 59 Back

15  IPCC, 2001, Third Assessment Report, Synthesis Report Back

16  The IPCC defined a family of some 40 unique socio-economic scenarios in the 'Special Report on Emission Scenarios' (SRES), the families include:
A1. very rapid economic and global population growth followed by rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies
A2. very heterogeneous world. Economic development is primarily regionally oriented and per capita economic growth and technological change more fragmented and slower than other storylines.
B1. a convergent world with the same global population, that peaks in mid-century and declines but with rapid change in economic structures toward a service and information economy
B2. emphasis is on local solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability. Intermediate levels of economic development, and less rapid and more diverse technological change than in the B1 and A1
The SRES scenarios do not include additional climate initiatives, which means that no scenarios are included that explicitly assume implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the emissions targets of the Kyoto Protocol.
Scenario IS92a is included in a number of diagrams to allow comparison with IPCC's Second Assessment Report. It is based on a population of 11.3 billion people by 2100, with 94% of growth occurring in developing countries. GNP growth slows due to an expected slowing of population growth. Income per capita rises most rapidly in the developing world but in 2100 it remains well below levels in the developed economies. Assumes only those emissions control policies aimed at mitigating climate change that were agreed as of December 1991 are in place. 

17  Bjørn Lomborg set out his views in 'The Skeptical Environmentalist', which was published in August 2001 Back

18  Answering the Skeptical Environmentalist, Scientific American, January 2002, pp59-69 and Grubb, 2001, Relying on Manna from Heaven?, Science, Vol 294, pp 1285-1287 Back

19  UNEP, 2001, UNEP Finance Initiatives Climate Change Working Group Position Paper. (See Back

20  Bruce, Burton and Egener,1999, Disaster Mitigation and Preparedness in a changing climate; A synthesis paper produced for emergency Preparedness Canada, Environment Canada and the Insurance Bureau of Canada. ( Back

21  Third Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, Session 2001-2002, UK Preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, HC616 Back

22  Q150 Back

23  Ibid. Back

24  Ev 68 Back

25  Ev 93 Back

26  Ibid. Back

27  Ev 69 Back

28  Ev 129 [para 4.1] Back

29  Ev 135 Back

30  Ev 143 [paras 2 and 3] Back

31  Q78 Back

32  Q85 Back

33  Ev 6 [para 27] Back

34  Financing Climate Change: Providing Public Goods, preventing public bads, Dr Peter Newell, Institute of Development Studies (IDS). An abridged version of this paper appears in Financing and Providing Global Public Goods: Expectations and Prospects, prepared for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden by IDS. Back

35  Q157 Back

36   World Bank, Development Indicators, 2001 Back

37   Ibid. Back

38  Financing Climate Change: Providing Public Goods, preventing public bads, Dr Peter Newell, Institute of Development Studies (IDS). An abridged version of this paper appears in Financing and Providing Global Public Goods: Expectations and Prospects, prepared for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden by IDS. Back

39  Ibid. Back

40  Ibid. Back

41  Ibid. Back

42  Q91 Back

43   Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

44  Ibid. Back

45  Ev 59 Back

46  Q44 Back

47  Ev 9 [para 1.3] Back

48  Ev 155 Back

49  Ev 164 Back

50  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

51  Ev 59 Back

52  Q2 Back

53  Ev 60 Back

54  Ev 59 Back

55  Ev 70 [para 4] Back

56  Q40 Back

57  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001, Table SPM-2 Back

58  Ibid. Back

59  Ibid. Back

60  Ibid. Back

61  Ibid. Back

62  Ev 59 Back

63  IPCC, 2001, Third Assessment Report, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability  Back

64  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001, Table SPM-2 Back

65  Q25 Back

66  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Technical Summary, 2001 Back

67  FAO, 1997, Agriculture and climate change: FAO's role See Back

68  Food in the 21st Century: Global Climate Disparities, Mahendra Shah, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Back

69  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

70  Ev 128 [para 2.2] Back

71  FAO, 1997, Agriculture and climate change: FAO's role See Back

72  Food in the 21st Century: Global Climate Disparities, Mahendra Shah, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Back

73   Ev 40 Back

74  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

75  Food in the 21st Century: Global Climate Disparities, Mahendra Shah, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Back

76  Food in the 21st Century: Global Climate Disparities, Mahendra Shah, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Back

77  Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology , 2002, Postnote number 178, Access to water in developing countries Back

78  Ev 43 [para 4.1] Back

79  Ev 42 [para 2.1] Back

80  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

81  Food in the 21st Century: Global Climate Disparities, Mahendra Shah, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Back

82  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

83   Ev 41 Back

84  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

85  Ev 41 [para 4.1] Back

86  Ev 46 [para 1] Back

87  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

88  Ibid. Back

89  Ev 46 Back

90  Ibid. Back

91  Ev 156 Back

92  Q88 Back

93  Ev 48 Back

94   Ev 47 Back

95  Ev 46 [para 1] Back

96  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

97  Defined as cities with a population exceeding 8 million. Back

98  Nicholls, 1995, Coastal Megacities and Climate Change, GeoJournal 37.3, 369-379 Back

99  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

100  Ibid. Back

101  Ibid. Back

102   Ev 48 and Ev 49 Back

103  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

104  Ev 93  Back

105   International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2002, World Disasters Report: Focus on reducing risk (see Back

106  Source: Munich Re, Topics: Annual Review of Natural Catastrophes 2001 Back

107  Ibid. Back

108  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

109  Source: Munich Re, Topics: Annual review of natural catastrophes, 2001 Back

110  Freeman, P.K., Martin, L.A., Mechler, R., Warner, K. and Hausman, P. (2001). Catastrophes and Development: Integrating Natural Catastrophes into Development Planning. Washington: World Bank. See Back

111  UNEP, 2001, UNEP Finance Initiatives Climate Change Working Group Position Paper.  Back

112  Ibid. Back

113  Ibid. Back

114  FAO, 1997, Agriculture and climate change: FAO's role See Back

115  Report of IPCC Working Group I: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001  Back

116  Q43 Back

117  Ev 148 [para 3.1 and 3.2] Back

118  Q73 and Q75 Back

119  Qq 74-75 Back

120  Ev 59 and Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

121  Ev 60 Back

122  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

123  Ev 16 [para 6.1] Back

124  Report of IPCC Working Group II: Summary for Policy Makers, 2001 Back

125  Ev 84 Back

126  Q62 Back

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