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Scientist: Global Warming Hurts Africa Most

February 2, 2005

LONDON (AP) — Rising global temperatures will hit Africa’s poor the hardest, reducing their ability to deal with disease, feed themselves and earn a living, a scientist told an international conference on climate change Wednesday.

In a paper presented to a gathering of environmental scientists in Exeter, southwest England, Anthony Nyong, a scientist from the University of Jos, Nigeria, said that in Africa global warming would increase the incidence of floods and drought, contributing to increased levels of disease transmission.

“Industrialized countries need to rapidly speed up their effort to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions to avoid dangerous climate change that will have a disproportionate impact on Africa’s people,” Nyong said.

Catrina Cardoso, a climate change expert from the World Wide Fund for Nature, said warming of up to 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) would have an impact on Africa’s fragile ecosystem.

“If global warming is not tackled, the viability of millions of people’s livelihoods in Africa will be undermined,” Cardoso said. “Without significant new resources, millions of others won’t be able to adapt to changes that are already happening.”

Climate change would also reduce African people’s ability to tackle illness, by wiping out plant species used for traditional medicines, Cardoso said.

By the 2080s, climate change is expected to place an additional 80 million to 120 million people at risk of hunger, with 70 percent to 80 percent of them living in Africa. The hardest hit will be poor people living in areas with low agricultural productivity who depend on genetic species and ecosystem diversity to feed themselves and support their livelihoods.

The environmental conference, which has drawn leading climate scientists from Europe, Asia, African and America, is an initiative of the British government, which has made tackling global warming a priority for its chairmanship of the G-8 this year.

The government hopes the conference, which ends Thursday, will lead to a new international consensus on the threat posed by rising temperatures.

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