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Humanitarian implications of climate change. Mapping emerging trends and risk hotspots

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C. Ehrhart
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This study identifies the most likely humanitarian implications of climate change for the next 20-30 year period. The authors use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to map specific hazards associated with climate change – specifically: floods, cyclones and droughts – and place them in relation to factors influencing vulnerability. The results identify hotspots of high humanitarian risk under changing climatic conditions:

flood-risk hotspots occur in Africa, including the Sahel, Great Lakes region, and Southeast Africa; Central, South and Southeast Asia; and Central America and the western part of South America
drought-risk hotspots are mainly located in sub-Saharan Africa; South Asia, particularly Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India; and South East Asia
cyclone-risk hotspots include Mozambique and Madagascar, Central America, Bangladesh, several parts of India, and Southeast Asian countries. As the range and intensity of cyclones increases, so too will the number of communities at high risk. This will include communities further in-land that are not used to coping with such hazards
areas at risk from more than one climate related hazard warrant special concern. These areas include much of sub- Saharan Africa, especially the east coast, and much of South Asia
there are some areas that are risk hotspots for all three hazards. These include Southeast Africa and parts of South and Southeast Asia

It is argued that new thinking and practical approaches to humanitarian assistance are needed to overcome this challenge. These include the following principles and commitments:

don’t make things worse - the international community has until December 2009, at the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to agree on a way forward. If this deadline isn’t met, the authors assert, we will shoot past any safe emissions scenario and commit future generations to a much more dangerous world
act earlier - it is especially important that the international community increases investment in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and concentrates on ensuring faster and more appropriate responses to disaster
act wiser - avoid inefficient quick fixes and ensure intelligent recovery from disasters that do not undermine development, perpetuate people’s vulnerability, and ignore the lessons learnt
follow through - helping people get back on their feet post disaster is key, as is redressing the underlying causes of vulnerability such as detrimental policies and poor governance, social discrimination and degraded ecosystems