More refugees to come unless rich nations help poor with climate change: UN scientist
By Natasha Bita
The Australian, June 29, 2010
More refugees will knock on Australia's door unless rich countries help poorer nations cope with climate change, a key UN scientist has warned.
Professor Martin Parry – a prominent UK scientist who chaired the last United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment of the impact of climate change – said wealthy countries such as Australia had 'good, selfish reasons' to spend money helping the developing world adapt to global warming.
He said climate change assistance to the developing world was tipped to reach $50 billion a year by 2020 – double the amount of other types of foreign aid.
'A lot of this is going to developing countries from the more wealthy because the developed countries realise we're all in it together,' he told a conference of more than 900 climate change researchers on the Gold Coast today.
'Putting it crudely, that means that if north Africa is going to dry in the way we think, and already we have a major immigration issue into southern Europe from north Africa, this is going to become a huge issue if we don't sort it.
'There are some good, selfish reasons for developed countries channelling adaptation money into the developing world.'
Professor Parry said the Pacific islands, on Australia's doorstep, were particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.
'It's very likely there will need to be large-scale relocations of people,' he said.
'But if we manage it well, and do it over half a century, it doesn't have to be seen as waves of refugees.'
Professor Parry said IPCC scientists had begun receiving 'hate mail' from global warming sceptics.
'It's a battlefield out there and I don't know why,' he said.
'It's almost as if climate change as an issue has become an article of faith – you either believe it or you don't – but science isn't like that.'
Professor Parry, who is visiting professor at the Centre for Environmental policy at Imperial College in London, said non-government organisations and green groups believed in global warming as fervently as the sceptics denied it.
'We need to find a way of debate and reason, otherwise we're not going to find a way through this,' he said.