For Immediate Release
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Natalie Curtis on + 44 (0) 7824 503108
Millions Face Climate-Related Hunger as Seasons Shift and Change
New Oxfam report warns multiple climate impacts could reverse 50 years of work to end poverty
WASHINGTON - Shifting seasons are destroying harvests and causing
widespread hunger - but this is just one of the multiple climate change
impacts taking their toll on the world's poorest people - concluded a
new report launched by Oxfam today (6 July 2009).
The report ‘Suffering the Science - Climate Change, People and Poverty',
is being published ahead of the G8 Summit in Italy, where climate
change and food security are high on the agenda. It combines the latest
scientific observations on climate change, and evidence from the
communities Oxfam works with in almost 100 countries around the world,
to reveal how the burden of climate change is already hitting poor
The report warns that without immediate action 50 years of
development gains in poor countries will be permanently lost. It says
that climate-related hunger could be the defining human tragedy of this
Suffering the Science outlines evidence of how climate change is
affecting every issue linked to poverty and development today including:
HUNGER: New research based on interviews with
farmers in fifteen countries across the world reveals how once distinct
seasons are shifting and rains are disappearing. Farmers from
Bangladesh to Uganda and Nicaragua, no longer able to rely on
generations of farming experience, are facing failed harvest after
AGRICULTURE: Rice and maize, two of the world's
most important crops on which hundreds of millions depend, particularly
in Asia, the Americas and Africa, face significant drops in yields even
under mild climate change scenarios. Maize yields are forecast to drop
by 15 per cent or more by 2020 in much of sub-Saharan Africa and in
most of India. One estimate puts the loss to Africa at $2bn a year.
HEALTH: Diseases such as malaria and dengue fever
that were once geographically bound are creeping to new areas where
populations lack immunity or the knowledge and healthcare
infrastructure to cope with them. It is estimated that climate change
has contributed to an average of 150,000 more deaths from disease per
year since the 1970s, with over half of those happening in Asia.
LABOR: Rising temperatures will make it impossible
for people to work at the same rate on hot summer days without serious
health impacts with huge ramifications for labourers paid by the hour
and the wider economy. Tropical cities such as Delhi could see a drop
in worker productivity of as much as 30 percent.
WATER: Water supplies are becoming so acutely
challenged that several major cities including Kathmandu and La Paz
which are dependent on the Himalayan and Andes glaciers may soon be
unable to function.
DISASTERS: Disasters including mega fires and
storms are on the rise and could triple by 2030. A record $165 billion
was lost in the 2005 hurricane season alone and the insurance industry
says that climate change will make the situation worse, particularly
for poor people who have no access to insurance.
DISPLACEMENT: An estimated 26 million people have
been displaced as a direct result of climate change and each year a
million more are displaced by weather related events. Island
communities from Vanuatu, Tuvalu and the Bay of Bengal have already
been forced to move because of sea level rise.
"Climate change is the central poverty issue of our times," said
Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International Executive Director. "Climate change
is happening today and the world's poorest people, who already face a
daily struggle to survive, are being hit hardest. The evidence is right
in front of our eyes. The human cost of climate change is as real as any redundancy or repossession notice."
A survey of top climate scientists, also published by Oxfam today,
said poor people living in low-lying coastal areas, island atolls and
mega deltas and farmers are most at risk from climate change because of
flooding and prolonged drought. The scientists, all contributors to the
International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), named South Asia and
Africa as climate change hotspots.
Many scientists are now sceptical that the world can limit global
warming to 2°C because they do not believe that politicians are willing
to agree the necessary cuts in carbon emissions, the report says. Two
degrees is considered to be "economically acceptable" to rich countries
however it would still mean a devastating future for 660 million
Professor Diana Liverman, a leading contributor to three IPCC
Assessment Reports and a member of the National Academy of Sciences
Committee which advises the US government on climate change, said: "If
we do not make deep cuts in emissions now the changing climate will
bring heat stress, sea level rise and more extreme drought and floods.
Scientific observations tell us that the world is already warming and
it appears that many of the most vulnerable people are starting to
experience the impacts of climate change. Organisations like Oxfam can
try and help people adapt to climate change but without a serious
effort to reduce warming, and in the absence of international funds for
adaptation, the food, water, health and livelihoods of millions of
people will be at risk."
Oxfam's report says that it is a bitter irony that in temperate zones
the impacts of climate change will be milder - at least initially.
However in the tropics, where the bulk of humanity lives, many of them
in poverty, climate change is beginning to play out more erratically
Oxfam is calling for G8 leaders to take personal responsibility for
delivering a fair and adequate global deal to tackle climate change as
only political commitment at the highest level can prevent a human
catastrophe. Rich industrialized countries, which created the climate
crisis and have the resources to tackle it, must cut their emissions by
at least 40 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020 and mobilize $150 billion
per year to fund emissions reduction and adaptation in the developing
"It is scandalous that our leaders continue to resist doing what's
needed, and within their power, to tackle the climate crisis," Hobbs
said. "G8 leaders, who represent the world's richest polluting
countries, must take personal responsibility for delivering a global
climate deal which has the needs of the world's poorest people at the
Download the report: Suffering the Science - Climate Change, People and Poverty
Notes to editors
Diana Liverman, a scientist and a member of the new National Academy of
Sciences Committee on America's Climate Choices which is advising the
US government on responses to climate change is available for
interview, as well as Oxfam spokespeople based across the developing
For strong images and personal stories go to, visit the Oxfam International Flickr site.
Survey of top climate scientists: 330 scientists who contributed to the
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report; Working Group II on Impacts, Adaptation
and Vulnerability, were invited to take part in an on-line survey.
12.73 per cent of scientists responded.
Oxfam International [http://www.oxfam.org] is a group of independent
non-governmental organizations from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France,
Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New
Zealand, Quebec, Spain, the UK and the US.
Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.