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Global warming: 400 mn risk starvation

The temperature rise of over 3?C is inevitable despite efforts to combat global warming, say scientists.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2006 01:59 IST

The steady rise in global temperature, at an average of three degrees Centigrade, would cause up to 400 million people to starve, according to a computer-modelled prediction for the British Government.

"If no measures are taken to manage the average temperatures rising by three degrees Centigrade to reduce global warming, few eco-systems would be able to adapt and up to 400 million people worldwide would be at risk of hunger, as almost 440 million tonnes of cereal production was lost," Professor Sir David King, the Government's chief scientist, said.

He said the temperature rise of over three degrees Centigrade was inevitable despite efforts to combat global warming. He urged governments to take more urgent action.

Britain and the rest of the European Union have signed up to a goal of limiting the temperature rise to two degrees.

In his strongest warning yet on the issue, Sir David suggested that the EU limit will be exceeded. He made a veiled criticism of the Bush Administration on the issue.

According to the computer-modelled predictions, the rise in temperatures apart from putting 400 million more people at risk of hunger would also leave between one and three billion more people at risk of water stress, cause cereal crop yields to fall by between 20 and 400 million tons, and destroy half the world's nature reserves.

Greenland's ice cap could melt, raising sea levels by six metres. In Britain, the main threat would come from flooding and "coastal attack" as sea levels rose.

In a BBC interview, Sir David said it was essential that the world began to make the necessary changes now.

"We don't have to succumb to a state of despondency where we say that there is nothing we can do so let's just carry on living as per usual. It is very important to understand that we can manage the risks to our population - and around the world," he said.

"What we are talking about here is something that will play through over decades - we are talking 100 years or so. We need to begin that process of investment. It is going to be a major challenge for the developing countries."

Environmentalists noted that the US was refusing to make cuts in its carbon emissions, while India and China are not required to make any cuts under the Kyoto climate treaty.

Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared resigned to not securing a "Kyoto mark 2" agreement under which countries would set firm targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

But he is trying to win international agreement on a goal of stabilising temperatures and carbon emissions at current levels when the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012, mainly through cleaner energy technology.

However, the critics of the Government termed Sir David "a defeatist". Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said, "It is technologically possible to significantly reduce our emissions and deliver two degrees [Centigrade]. Professor King should be pressing for Government policies to deliver on this rather than accepting the current lack of political will and talking of three degrees as an inevitability."

Tony Grayling, associate director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, said, "We are not bound to get to three degrees."