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Climate Change Could Reverse Asia's Progress

By Anjana Pasricha
New Delhi

Activists Warn Climate Change Will Reverse Asia's Economic Progress

A new report warns that global warming could reverse decades of economic and social progress across Asia, home to two-thirds of the word's population. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the development and aid groups that prepared the report are calling for urgent measures to reduce the damage from climate change.

The report, called "Up In Smoke", says Asian countries could be the biggest victims if global temperatures continue to rise.

The report, released Monday, was prepared by an alliance of development and aid agencies such as Greenpeace, World Wild Fund for Nature and ActionAid.

It paints a grim picture of what could happen in some of the world's most crowded countries, such as India, China and Bangladesh: rainy seasons, around which farming systems are designed, will become more temperamental, threatening food security.

The report predicts that floods and tropical cyclones will increase in magnitude and frequency. Fresh water sources could dry up as Himalayan glaciers melt.

The report says nearly half of Asia's four billion people living in coastal areas may be particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns.

Shruti Shukla of World Wide Fund for Nature says progress made by Asia in cutting poverty in recent decades could be reversed by climate change.

"With bulk of humanity residing in this particular region we have to be worried about the numbers," Shukla said. "Because of the sheer number ... out of the six billion people in the planet, you have four billion people roughly living in this region. And the vulnerability of these people is much higher than in other parts of the world."

The report warns that Asia's biggest cities may not be spared. In Hong Kong for example, the city's cool winters could vanish in 50 years. India's financial hub, Mumbai, may be flooded by rising sea levels. And Dhaka in Bangladesh could face more frequent flooding.

The development groups are calling for urgent steps to reduce the damage from climate change.

For example, the report says Asian countries should switch from coal-fired power plants to renewable energy sources such as wind.

The report warns that growth seen in India and China, two of the region's two biggest economies, could be reversed if they follow a Western development path based on using fossil fuels.

The report also urges Western countries to act "first and fastest" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists believe contribute to warming global temperatures. Such gases, which carbon dioxide, usually are the result of burning carbon-based fuels, such as oil, wood and coal.

K. Srinivas at Greenpeace says developed countries must give Asia access to clean technologies as well as funds to cope with the effects of global warming.

"Developed countries ... one is clearly where we require technology flows, free technology flows, and second what is important is also in terms of resources, financial resources," Srinivas said.

The report says many of the solutions to reduce global warming are known, such as switching to alternative fuels. But the challenge is for governments and communities to act.


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