Climate change affects low-lying areas, puts poor at risk

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2007

-- Down to Earth Low-elevation coastal zones (leczs) are areas at an elevation of 10 metres or less above sea level. Although leczs account for just 2 per cent of the world's total land area, they contain about 634 million people: 10 per cent of the global population. About 75 per cent of people in leczs live in Asia

Down to Earth leczs are more threatened by climate change impacts because they are more vulnerable to rises in sea levels and tropical storms

Down to Earth More than 180 countries have people in leczs. Of these, 130 have their largest urban area extending into such a zone.14 per cent of the world's urban population inhabits leczs

Down to Earth Down to EarthIslands and delta states such as Bahamas (88 per cent), Surinam (76), The Netherlands (70), Vietnam and Guyana (55), Bangladesh (46) and Egypt (38) have the highest percentage of people in leczs. Among poor countries, Bangladesh accounts for two-thirds of people in leczs

Down to Earth 50 poor countries have a high share of total and urban population in leczs--14 and 21 per cent. This is only 10 and 11 per cent for rich countries

Down to Earth Climate change impacts don't just affect deltas and coastal regions. Major rivers are also under threat. For instance, the Indus in Asia and Nile in Africa are among 10 rivers facing extinction

Down to Earth Down to Earth Indus is affected due to its high dependency on glacier water. The Nile basin is sensitive to increases in temperature because of its high rate of evaporation. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (ipcc) Working Group II report, global warming could melt Himalayan glaciers by 2030. Other threatened rivers are the Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Ganges, Danube, La Plata, Rio Grande-Rio Bravo and Murray-Darling

Down to Earth ipcc report says poor nations will suffer most as rising temperatures will affect low-lying areas in Asia and Africa, resulting in a decrease in crop yields and increasing vulnerability to hunger

1. The rising tide: assessing the risks of climate change and human settlements in low elevation costal zones; International Institute for Environment and Development, London, UK (Environment & Urbanization; Vol 19, No 1, April 2007)

2. World's top 10 rivers at risk; WWF International, Gland Switzerland

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