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US Wants More Balanced Approach to Climate Change

The United States is urging the International Red Cross Movement to adopt, what it calls, a more balanced approach in dealing with the consequences of climate change. More than 1,500 representatives attending the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in Geneva this week are tackling a growing number of complex humanitarian challenges. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from the conference.

Climate change is one of the most hotly contested issues being debated at the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Few people here seriously contest the need to deal with the humanitarian consequences of climate change. But, delegates are divided as to how much emphasis to give to the issue.

The head of the U.S. Delegation, John Bellinger, says the United States takes climate change seriously and will support next week's U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia.

Turning to the Red Cross conference, he says he is concerned about the focus on climate change in the final declaration, which is still under discussion. He says there is an over-emphasis on climate change as the only form of environmental degradation that poses challenges to the planet.

"We just think that it is important in fairness that one be balanced in recognizing that the natural disasters that in fact continue to befall most countries and that kill most people are things like earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, hurricanes," he said. "A focus and concern on climate change is entirely appropriate. We need to be careful that it is not a rush to focus on climate change to the exclusion of the traditional kinds of disasters that have caused the deaths and suffering of so many people around the world."

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the planet is warming faster than previously predicted.

The Nobel Prize winning group of scientists says carbon and other heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions must stabilize by 2015 and then decline to head off the worst consequences from climate change.

A new report by the humanitarian group Oxfam says weather-related natural disasters have risen from 120 annually in the 1980s to about 500 today.

Madeleen Helmer is Head of the Red Cross and Red Crescent climate change center in the Netherlands. She tells VOA climate change triggers weather-related disasters.

"The consequence of climate change and its impact on the increase of weather-related disasters means we need to intensify the way we work," she said. "We need to be more open for risks that we have not seen before: Heat waves in areas where we have not seen heat waves, or prolonged heat waves, drought, floods, problems that are afflicting eastern Africa."

Helmer says problems caused by climate change will not go away and must be addressed.

Other issues being discussed at the conference include the humanitarian needs of migrants and internally displaced persons and ways to deal with the impact of war.