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Increased Climate Volatility Expected To Worsen Poverty Vulnerability In Developing Countries

August 20, 2009

 A new study supported by the World Bank has for the first time tried to combine, understand and predict the effects of climate change on food prices and wages in developing countries to assess how badly different socio-economic strata in sixteen vulnerable countries will be hit by extreme weather conditions, associated with climate change such as annual-scale hot, dry and wet extremes.

Using the same methodology for climate prediction as the International Panel on Climate Change and data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the report, published in IOP Publishing’s Environmental Research Letters today, Thursday, 20 August, is a crucial stepping stone in the fight to help those most at risk. Find the report http://stacks.iop.org/ERL/4/034004 from Thursday.

The paper, ‘Climate volatility deepens poverty vulnerability in developing countries’, written by researchers from the Development Research Group at the World Bank and climate researchers at Purdue University in Indiana, US, explains why extreme exposure to food price increases for the urban poor in countries such as Bangladesh, Mexico, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia, suggest that it is the urban poor who will be hardest hit and enter most rapidly in to poverty as the climate changes throughout this century.

The paper hopes to inform policy makers to allow better-informed strategic mobilisation of international development resource and climate policy instruments. Barriers such as access to credit, missing infrastructure and the lack of information to those most likely affected must be tackled.

The importance of doing so is stressed with UN figures incorporated into the report that predict decreases in the share of developing countries’ populations living in rural areas. It is suspected rural populations will decrease by more than one third between 2010 and 2050, thereby increasing the numbers likely to be most adversely affected.

The researchers acknowledge various limitations in their methodology, including ongoing uncertainty around the physics of climate models and the inability to account for sudden extreme weather events, but the breakdown of the effects on different socio-economic strata will provide a new kind of guide to policy-makers and future researchers.

As the researchers explain, “As the frequency and intensity of climate extremes increase, crop production damages from such events will change. Sharp reductions in crop supply put upward pressure on food prices, thereby having a significant poverty impact. Therefore, in order to create informed poverty responses to the threat of increased poverty vulnerability as well as to better quantify potential damages associated with varying greenhouse targets, it is imperative to understand the linkages between developing country poverty and climate extremes.”

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