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Copenhagen Accord Not Enough to Prevent Water Shortages: NGO

By Rich Bowden:

International aid organisation Oxfam International has claimed that the failure of the Copenhagen climate conference to set binding carbon emissions reduction targets could condemn billions of people across the globe to unprecendented water shortages.

The statement, issued by international aid agency Oxfam International ahead of the January 31 deadline for countries to submit carbon emission reduction targets under the Accord, quoted scientists as saying the failure of the December summit in achieving binding targets will see the world experience a four degree Celsius rise in global temperature by 2100.

It said the non-binding targets which were submitted on January 31, would not restrict the global temperature rise to the stated 2 degrees Celsius, a scenario which would result in far more damage to the world’s environment and weather patterns.

Adding that this expected rise would impact on the availability of global water supplies, the release said scientists had estimated that around four billion people would be affected by a marked increase in drought conditions should average temperatures rise by four degrees. The statement contends that global water shortages will occur, with expected year- round droughts in Southern Africa and an increase in serious droughts in Europe to once every decade from the current once every hundred years.

Antonio Hill, Climate Advisor for Oxfam International emphasized the effect the failure to deliver meaningful emissions targets would have on water supply.

“World leaders are set to fail their first test on whether they meant what they said in Copenhagen,” he said. ” They recognized that temperatures should be kept from rising above the two degree danger level but are still talking about emissions cuts that will create a near four degree world crippled by drought.”

Mr Hill also questioned whether world leaders would be able to implement another key element of the accord — the promise to provide $30 billion in aid to the poorest countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

He cited the example of Bangladesh, which is in need of an estimated $1.5 billion to ensure drinking water for coastal communities whose water sources have been contaminated by salt from rising sea levels.

“The next big test is whether the world leaders will be able to deliver the climate cash promised in the Accord. This means delivering the emergency funds the poorest countries need to adapt to climate change now and sorting out how to raise and deliver $100 bn within the year,” Mr Hill said.

“The lackluster response shows the Accord isn’t solving anything,” he added. “Only a UN deal can deliver the global emissions reductions that are needed and ensure the voices of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries are heard.”

Research carried out by Prof. Nigel Arnell at the Walker Institute for Climate System Research, at the UK’s University of Reading, has described how a four degree Celsius increase will affect water availability.

“A rise in global temperature of 4 oC would have a substantial effect on river flows and the availability of water resources,” he predicted. “Average runoff decreases by up to 70% (compared to present) around the Mediterranean, southern Africa, central Asia and large areas of north and South America, although the amounts of change are different between different climate models.”

Prof Arnell’s research contended that projected estimates to 2080 would see 35% of a larger world population — close to 3 billion people — living in water stressed regions.

“Under a 4 oC rise in global temperature, and the HadCM3 climate scenario, around 1 billion of these people would see a significant reduction in the amount of water available, and would thus be exposed to increased water resources scarcity,” Prof Arnell explained. “Regions particularly affected – under this scenario – include the Middle East and central Asia, countries around the Mediterranean, parts of central and north America, and parts of southern and western Africa.”

Despite the lack of enforceability of the voluntary emissions targets which are less than many environmentalists had hoped for to combat the effects of climate change, the number of nations signing up for the Accord, including the United States and China, represented an achievement in international attempts to combat the effects of climate change though not enough to prevent water catastrophes such as droughts, floods and other extreme weather patterns, reported the Los Angeles Times last week.

Quoting Keya Chatterjee, director of the World Wildlife Fund’s climate change program, the newspaper reported him as saying the outcome was “…much better than we had a couple months ago. But it’s still not where we need to be.”

Article first published in OOSKAnews.

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