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Leading Scientist Says Climate Change Increases Poverty and Hunger

A leading climate change scientist says the warming of the planet would have a devastating impact on the poor and the hungry. He urges the United Nations to make greater efforts to help the poor, the hungry, and malnourished adapt to the realities of climate change and its difficulties. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The chairman of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, says the effects of climate change will be mainly felt in the areas of health and agriculture. He says it is the poor who would suffer most from the change.

He says heat waves in different parts of the world are making people ill and causing many deaths. He says the situation is particularly bad in poor countries that do not have the infrastructure or wherewithal to protect people from extreme heat.

Speaking of the agricultural effects of climate change, Pachauri says two-thirds of the world lives in rural areas and the majority of these people are in developing countries. He says a great many are dependent on rain-fed agriculture.

Pachauri says climate change would lead to an increase in precipitation in temperate areas, but a decrease in tropical and sub-tropical areas, where most of the people on Earth live. Those who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, he says, would be adversely affected by the decrease.

"At the global level, with the decline in agricultural productivity, in the largest countries of the world or the most populous countries of the world, we will find that food stocks will diminish," Pachauri said. "And, as a matter of fact, that has already started happening. The result of that will be an increase in food prices. Now, that in turn, hits the poorest of the poor very badly."

Pachauri says Africa is particularly vulnerable to decreases in rainfall. He says many regions of the continent are already suffering from an enormous scarcity of water.

"There would be the problem of hunger and undernourishment, simply because agricultural yields will go down, are going down," he said. "And, with food prices likely to go up, they would just not be in a position to import the quantities that would be required for sustenance."

Climate scientist Pachauri says farmers suffering hard times will have to adopt measures such as the more efficient use of water resources. He says new strains of crops that can withstand higher temperatures and lower quantities of water will have to be developed.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects sea levels will rise from 18 to 59 centimeters by the end of the century. It says small island states in the so-called Mega Deltas in Asia - low-lying areas in Asia that are vulnerable to heavy flooding - will be among the most threatened