Costs of Inaction on Climate Change Growing Rapidly, Especially for the Poor

By mborum

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WASHINGTON, DC ? International agency Oxfam America called on the US Congress today to deliver steep reductions in US greenhouse gas emissions and invest in innovative strategies to deal with the consequences of global warming that are already evident and are certain to grow.

In his testimony before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Jim Lyons, Oxfam America?s vice president for policy and communications, called climate change one of the greatest challenges to efforts to promote development and reduce global poverty, and stressed "the costs of failing to act to address both the already realized effects of global warming and the need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions to limit the future effects of climate change are substantial and rapidly growing." Selections from his testimony follow:

"In our operations spanning Africa, Latin America, East Asia and the United States itself, our staff and partners are already responding to the serious impacts of climate change, from increasingly severe weather events to water scarcity. Moreover, as the science indicates, poor and vulnerable communities around the world will increasingly bear the brunt of the consequences of global warming, threatening the lives of millions of people and undermining global stability and security.

"People living in developing countries are 20 times more likely to be affected by climate-related disasters compared to those living in the industrialized world, and nearly two billion people in developing countries were affected by climate-related disasters in the 1990s alone.

"The threats that climate change poses to global poverty reduction and development are both broad and deep. Climate change will have ramifications throughout the entire economic, political, and social fabric of developing countries in ways that will hardly be limited to the arena we usually think of as environmental. The recent rapid increase in world food prices illustrates the human consequences of food scarcity that will be exacerbated by climate change?and may already be related to climate impacts in some cases.

"Global stability and security will be undermined by increasing migration and refugee crises, by conflicts over ever-scarcer natural resources, and by economic destabilization as poverty and food insecurity grow. Our national interest will not be well-served by a failure to tackle the powerful ripple effects that climate change will cause in some of the most politically sensitive parts of the world.

"The US must acknowledge the enormous costs that a failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will impose on us in the future, and we must therefore act to reduce our emissions substantially. Yet even with significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, we must also recognize the costs that would come from a failure to immediately address the climate change impacts being felt today. If we do not assist vulnerable communities to build resilience and adapt to climate impacts, the costs we face will be measured not only in dollars but also in lives lost.

"As the saying goes, the best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging. As leading experts and scientists have warned, we need to stop contributing to our own demise by substantially reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, we must invest in measures to help adapt to climate change and build greater resiliency for populations and communities most vulnerable to its consequences. This is not simply a matter of moral and ethical importance, but one with important social, economic and global security consequences."

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