Floods and drought to rise due to climate change
By David Chance
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Flooding in temperate regions and the tropics and droughts in arid regions are likely to increase over the course of the century due to climate change, according to a study released on Wednesday.
The study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body which won last year's Nobel Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, said changes in fresh water supplies would have a huge impact on humans and on the environment.
"The frequency of heavy precipitation events (or proportion of total rainfall from heavy falls) will very likely increase over most areas during the 21st century, with consequences to the risk of rain-generated floods," the report, released at the IPCC's annual meeting in Budapest, said.
"At the same time, the proportion of land surface in extreme drought at any one time is projected to increase," it said.
The report comes at a time when the price of food staples such as rice and wheat are increasing sharply due to rising demand from Asia and poor harvests due to bad weather.
In the Philippines, for example, rice is the staple food of 83 percent of the population and imports have doubled in the past decade, according to a report from investment bank Credit Suisse.
That is estimated to cost the government $1.3 billion in 2008, the bank said, as it subsidizes the difference between the world market price and the price at which rice is sold domestically.
That situation is repeated in many developing countries and will likely be worsened by climate change, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told journalists in Budapest.
He said by 2020, unless action was taken to mitigate the effects of climate change, 250 million people in Africa could be suffering from "water stress," which means lack of access to adequate water for drinking and agriculture.
That is a problem that will spread beyond the continent and create a major challenge for governments globally, he said.
"The risk is that these people can no longer sustain themselves and they have to find somewhere else to go," de Boer said.
(Editing by Mary Gabriel)