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Climate-related hazards caused $1.5tr damage

Climate-related hazards caused $1.5tr damage

ISLAMABAD: Citing example that the 2010 floods in Pakistan affected 4.5 million workers, two-third of whom were employed in agriculture, and over 70 per cent of farmers lost more than half of their expected income, a new report of Food and Agriculture Organisation says the total worldwide economic damage caused by climate change-related disasters is estimated at $1.5 trillion.

Many Asian countries are particularly vulnerable to the impact of floods and storms. The crop production losses caused by the 2010 floods in Pakistan directly affected cotton ginning, rice processing and flour and sugar milling, while cotton and rice imports surged. In this case, some 50pc of the $10bn in total damages and losses fell on the agriculture sector.

Worldwide, between 2003 and 2013, according to the FAO study, the average annual number of disasters caused by all types of natural hazards, including climate-related events almost doubled since the 1980s, points out the study: “The impact of disasters on agriculture and food security”.

Droughts, floods, storms and other disasters triggered by climate change have risen in frequency and severity over the last three decades, increasing the damage caused to the agricultural sectors of many developing countries and putting them at risk of growing food insecurity, FAO warned.

Focusing specifically on the impact of climate-related disasters in developing countries, some 25pc of the negative economic impacts were borne by the crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry sectors alone. In the case of drought, over 80pc of the damage and losses affected the agriculture sector, especially livestock and crop production.

The report clearly demonstrates that natural hazards - particularly extreme weather events - regularly impact heavily on agriculture and hamper the eradication of hunger, poverty and the achievement of sustainable development.

The situation is likely to worsen unless measures are taken to strengthen the resilience of the agriculture sector and increase investments to boost food security and productivity and also curb the harmful effects of climate change.

Floods cause more than half of the total damage and loss to crops which are also very vulnerable to storms and drought. Around 85pc of the damage caused to livestock is due to drought, while fisheries are overwhelmingly affected by tsunamis and storms such as hurricanes and cyclones. Most of the negative economic impact to forestry is caused by storms and floods.

The FAO study stresses that aid should better reflect the impact of disasters on the agriculture sector, while the report concludes that investments into disaster response and recovery should also build resilience to future shocks through risk reduction and management measures particularly in countries facing recurrent disasters.

Worldwide, the livelihoods of 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture, yet only 4.2pc of total official development assistance was spent on agriculture between 2003 and 2012 -- less than half the United Nations target of 10pc investment in disaster risk reduction is extremely low: only around 0.4pc of official development aid in 2010 and 2011.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2015

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