India and China will be hit especially hard by climate change, and there is a possibility of a reversal of decades of human development across the Asia, a powerful coalition of aid and green groups has warned.
With more than 60 per cent of the world's population, Asia is where the human drama of global warming will be played out, The Independent quotes the report of the alliance of 23 of Britain's leading poverty and environmental campaigning groups, from Oxfam to Friends of the Earth, as saying.
Asia, the report says has social and environmental characteristics that will make it especially vulnerable to climate change. These range from the fact that more than half of the population lives near the coast, and so is directly vulnerable to sea-level rise driven by the warming climate, to the fact that the continent is home to 87 per cent of the world's 400 million small farms, dependent on regular and reliable rainfall - which cannot be guaranteed in the future. It also says that across the continent, there may be a substantial migration of peoples if conditions become untenable.
The report titled Up in Smoke? Asia and the Pacific is the fourth in a series from the coalition, which is officially The Working Group on Climate and Development. Their first report in 2004 formally acknowledged that global warming had the potential to damage the poor of the world more than any other factor.
It also warns that a rapidly industrialising China is overtaking the US as the world's biggest greenhouse gas-emitter with its vast programme of building coal-fired power stations, and India is likely to follow suit. Only leadership by example from the rich countries of the industrialised West, will be able to persuade both countries to follow a different path, which is the report's key recommendation.
"To prevent catastrophic global warming, the only feasible alternative is for wealthy countries to dramatically reduce their 'luxury' greenhouse gas emissions, so that the 'survival' emissions of people in poor countries do not cause disaster. How else will we free up the environmental space necessary for Asia to develop?"
The report calls for the urgent development of a second, post-2012 phase of the Kyoto protocol, the international climate change treaty. Representatives from nearly 200 countries will meet to discuss this next month in Bali, Indonesia.