Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)




  40.  Good morning. Thank you all very much for having agreed to come and give evidence today. Just for the record, I know that you collectively have looked at the global impact of climate change on food, water, coastal flooding and health (particularly the incidence and prevalence of malaria); and this work has been used to build data on estimated impacts and to calculate the numbers of people at risk. The main projects, called the global fast track studies, have been funded by DEFRA over the past five years to show the implications of the Hadley Centre modelling. The reports have been widely circulated and influential in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and meetings of the Conference of Parties to the climate convention. I think you have all been involved in writing the IPCC Working Group II report in 2001 on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, so we are very grateful to you for coming and giving evidence today. We are going to try and do something which is very difficult for us in Parliament which is to listen! What I am going to do is, I have two lots of questions I am going to put to you, and perhaps you can use that as a peg between you to address us, and we have got until quarter past eleven. At the end of these sessions of lots of questions perhaps we could then ask you a question you might like to start putting your minds to now, which is: are there ways, as a consequence of all this, where you feel DFID's policies should change? Are there areas of Government policy which should be different from that which they are at the present moment? The first group of questions we would like you to talk to us about are: what are the main impacts of climate change at a global level, with particular regard to developing countries; how easy is it to identify the impacts that are specifically due to the human-induced global warming that we have already experienced against a background of natural climate variability and ongoing social change; and, in relation to that, how reliable can any assessment of future impacts be; how confident are you in projected impacts for specific communities over the next 20 years, ie the planning horizon for sustainable development; and, lastly, to what extent is vulnerability about a lack of proper governance, structures and institutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and to what extent is it about a physical change that cannot be mitigated? Perhaps you could collectively and individually address us on those issues. Professor Parry, how you divide it up between you is for you, and we will listen.
  (Professor Parry) As you rightly said, Chairman, we have been working as a group in different fields. Professor Arnell has been working on water; Professor Nicholls on coastal flooding and sea level rise; and Professor Haines and Ms Kovats on health, particularly malaria. I can perhaps say one or two things generally about how we brought our work together in terms of millions of people at risk. In each of these fields we have been able to estimate, in this instance only for the UK's Hadley model projections for climate change, the additional millions of people that might be at risk specifically from climate change over and above those that are at risk now, and are projected by the United Nations to be at risk in the future. Broadly speaking, without going into details here, our estimate is that of hundreds of millions of people likely to be additionally at risk either of hunger, water shortage, coastal flooding or malaria. Secondly, as we look at the particular geographic distribution of these additional millions at risk in not all cases, but in most, a very great concentration of those additions are in Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia. Specifically for the field of hunger that I work in, almost all the global total of 50 million people we expect additionally to be at risk from climate change occurs in Africa. That is partly for reasons of the nature of climate change in already largely arid areas, particularly sub-humid Africa, and also because of essentially the high vulnerability of that region. We can go into that later. That is a general statement about millions at risk that comes from all our work. I have mentioned in one phrase those at risk specifically due to hunger because that is a field I work in, but it might be useful at this point to ask my colleagues to add to that in terms of their own fields.

  Chairman: Maybe it is easier to go along the table, starting with Professor Nicholls on sea level rises, then Professor Arnell on water, and Professor Haines and Ms Kovats on health.
  (Professor Nicholls) Within the DEFRA funded work we have looked specifically at coastal flooding, as Professor Parry has just described, and also some work on coastal ecosystems. I think it is worth noting that sea level rise and climate change in the coastal zone will have a number of effects, so these are only a selection of the effects. It will also promote erosion, and saltwater intrusion and other types of hazards will be exacerbated. Many people will experience a number of different problems in the coastal zone. Speaking specifically about the work on flooding, there is a large increase in the number of people likely to experience flooding under a situation of global sea level rise, particularly by the Hadley Centre model, and no specific adaption to try to do anything about it. The regions that seem to be most vulnerable are quite similar to the ones Professor Parry mentioned. Africa stands out, I think reflecting the adaptive capacity of that region, and also South and South East Asia, because of the large number of densely populated deltas that are found in that area. Also another area which stands out very strongly in the work, not in absolute terms but in relative terms, are the small island regions—the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. I think it is well known already that the Maldives could disappear with a metre rise in sea level. These regions all stand out as being particularly exposed and, in various terms, more exposed than any other part of the world. There are specific problems with coastal areas.
  (Professor Arnell) In terms of water resources, the two key water-related effects of climate change are on the supply of water to a whole range of users in agriculture and the public, and impacts on river flooding. There are other aspects which are also important to do with power generation, health and agriculture particularly, but I will not go into those at the moment. When it comes to the more specifically water-related impacts—like a change in the water supply and a change in floods—it is important to distinguish between the hydrological changes which are driven by the climate change, and the impacts of those changes which are very much influenced by the way in which the exposure to water shortage or to flood risk changes; whether it is due to population growth, economic development, adaptation to climate change or not, adaptation to current climatic variability. There is an important distinction between the effects of the change in the hydrology and the impacts of that on human societies. In general terms, the hydrological changes are driven almost exclusively by the changes in rainfall that the climate models project, which vary; but there are some very strong consistent patterns. One of the consistent patterns is that large parts of Southern Africa, under virtually all the scenarios we have looked at, are likely to get dryer with implications for stream flow and the amount of water that is potentially available. That is a very consistent pattern. A large part of Southern Africa is drier with reduced water availability. Other developing region areas are less clear at the moment. In West Africa and Southern Asia the signals are dependent to an extent on the climate model projections. That is important when we come to consider the potential implications for climate change. What is also becoming clear is, the way society and the economy manages water shortage and water excess influences to a large extent the implications of the change in climate for water resources and flood risk.
  (Professor Haines) Health, of course, is downstream of many of the impacts that my colleagues have talked about. The relationship between health and climate is relatively complex, because there are a number of pathways by which climate can affect health. An obvious pathway is the direct effect of rises in temperature, resulting in an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves in summer months, particularly in urban centres. Some work we have been doing at the London School shows that the relationship between temperature and death rates is different for different cities around the world. For example, in a city like Delhi there is very little cold-related mortality in the winter months; it is almost all related to an increase in temperature in the warmer months. That suggests there would be very different responses in a city like Delhi to climate change than in a city like London, where there is high cold-related mortality, and there may be some benefits of warming winters. The other direct effects, of course, are related to extreme events which my colleagues have outlined. There are a range of effects of flooding on health; the most obvious ones are increases in communicable diseases—diarrhoeal diseases and so on; but increasingly we are also beginning to understand that flooding can have major impacts on mental health, which can last for long periods; changes in behaviour amongst children; increases in depression amongst people being flooded; increases in suicide rates. Martin Parry alluded to the effects of reduced crop yields. Our main concern is the impact of these on malnutrition in vulnerable populations, as he said, particularly in Africa. A topic, which of course many of you will know about from the media, is the potential impact of climate change on so-called vector-borne diseases; these are diseases which are carried by mosquitoes and other vectors, and malaria is the most important of these. Currently about 2.4 billion people are at risk of malaria worldwide. The impact is largely, but not entirely, on children. About 7 per cent of 11 million deaths a year, of children under five, are due to malaria. It is therefore a very important disease on a global scale. At the moment we are still at the early stages of vaccine development. There is not an effective vaccine, and there is not likely to be one in the next few years. The concerns have to be changes in malaria distribution possibly at the latitudinal edges but particularly at the altitudinal edges of distribution in parts of Africa and other parts of the tropics. There are many other vector-borne diseases which are likely to be climate-sensitive; including some of the virus diseases which you may be less familiar with, such as dengue. Probably about 3 billion people are currently at risk of dengue; it does not cause as many deaths as malaria but it is, nevertheless, an important infection in many parts of the world. There are many other examples of viral diseases transmitted by insect vectors that I do not have time to go into. Many of the other "tropical" diseases, and particularly their insect vectors, are climate sensitive but their incidence and distribution may also depend on other environmental factors and, in some cases, on the effectiveness of disease control programmes. The estimates that we work on are related by and large to the short-term relationships, by and large, between temperature, humidity and disease. We obviously have to try and extrapolate those forward into the future. That clearly does give some uncertainties to the work; but, nevertheless, I think we are getting a much better understanding now of the relationship between climate and disease; and that is reflected, in some of the work that is being done at the moment and will be done in the future. I will hand over to my colleague, Sari Kovats, to say a few words about the malaria work.
  (Ms Kovats) To answer the question about how easy it is to detect changes attributable to climate change, obviously it is extremely difficult because human disease is caused by many factors. Also, in developing countries there are very few data series for the last 20 years of sufficient quality to answer those questions. We have recently conducted a review to look at all the information that is available; and three local studies do indicate that climate change may have increased highland malaria in areas of Rwanda, Ethiopia and Pakistan. Obviously we cannot exclude all other alternative explanations and it is possible that drug resistance has increased cases. The IPCC has reviewed information on studies of changes in the distribution of insects. We know that climate change has already affected distribution of some insect species in certain areas. There is one study which shows that ticks may be moving north in Sweden and that human disease may have changed as a result.

Mr Robathan

  41.  In terms of development aid, if there were a better infrastructure for delivering particularly mosquito eradication programmes, would it be relatively easy to counter this rise in malaria in developing countries?
  (Professor Haines) About 30 per cent of the population in low income countries have access to some form of treatment; and probably only about 2 per cent actually have access to effective preventive activities in relation to malaria according to a recent WHO estimate. There are large areas of the world where there are no effective preventive programmes, particularly vector-control programmes. Of course the other issue which is relevant to prevention is the provision of insecticide-treated bed nets, which does reduce malaria appreciably but does not often reach many of the poorest populations. To some extent, by providing improved effective vector-control programmes and bed nets you could substantially reduce mortality from malaria. Nevertheless, I think it has got to be seen as part of an overall programme where we also provide more effective treatment and perhaps, ultimately an effective vaccine which, as I have said, is still some way away.

  42.  Could I ask you to home in on vector-control, which has worked in various areas.
  (Ms Kovats) It is not a question of vector-control in hyper-endemic areas—where you use bed nets. The main climate change effect will not be in the very endemic areas, in sub-Saharan Africa, it will be at the fringes of distribution where malaria is unstable, where they have not had malaria epidemics very often and they are not very well prepared. Here, the population has very little immunity and mortality during an epidemic is very high in all age groups. It is those areas which are vulnerable to climate change and they are mostly in the Highlands of East Africa, Papua New Guinea, Laos and Vietnam. Activities there are focussing on epidemic forecasting. There is very little research at the moment on the use of climate information to forecast epidemics and to target limited resources. If you just had an extra bit of information about the risk over the coming year then you could use your resources more efficiently by using climate information.


  43.  You mentioned a lack of data in some countries—is there enough research observation being done in developing countries in this area in relation to your own respective disciplines? Perhaps you could tell us what work is being done in developing countries in your areas of study. Do you think it is enough; and how could it be enhanced?
  (Professor Nicholls) There is a lot of work going on in a number of developing countries on the issue of potential effects of sea level rise and, more broadly, climate change on coastal areas. I think most of that work is looking at what might be exposed to the impact of sea level rise and climate change. I think an area where there is less work is what we might do in terms of responding to it—we need focussed research to look realistically at adaption—and I think we are going to hear about that in the next session in a more general sense. That is one area where a lot more work needs to be done. Another area that handicaps us is just simple information about things like where people actually live. Talking about the work I do broadscale, we had information on where vulnerable populations are but that data could be much, much better. We are working on a new project right now to try and actually improve and bring some of that new data in. There are a lot of different things that could be done at a range of levels. I think in the developing world there is a need to think not just about how climate change might affect an area, but this issue of how we can respond, and how the local population can respond; and what policies in addition therefore need to be implemented to deal with these problems.
  (Professor Arnell) With the area of water, the IPCC's most recent assessment showed there were very, very few studies of potential climate change on water in developing countries. The vast majority of the work that is reported there is from Europe and North America effectively; very little is done in developing countries, and there is very little done in Africa particularly. There are a number of reasons for that. One possible reason, and this is widely acknowledged amongst hydrological organisations and meteorological organisations, is the lack of data on hydrological conditions, across large parts of Africa particularly, and the situation is getting worse rather than better as records are more and more collected, stored and so on. There are initiatives by the Royal Meteorological Organisation and others to try and address this; but this is a big problem in detecting a trend, looking at the variations in stream flow, looking particularly at the hydrology now, and looking at how unusual recent behaviour has been in the context of the past. The records, in many cases, are just not there. That is a big problem in many parts of Africa.
  (Professor Parry) Generally speaking, the case would be across all of us, Chairman, that there are an inadequate number of studies being done on impact and adaptation in developing countries as a whole; and there is an incredible imbalance of information available between the north and south in this respect. In addition to that, my impression is that those studies being undertaken and funded by different countries are not well coordinated. One wonders how much agencies of wealthy countries, such as DFID, are able to coordinate with their own equivalents in France and Germany—simple things like establishing the same climatic projections to work with, so that one can compare like with like impacts and adaptations. I think it is very important to have this coordination so that we have a set of impact studies so we can then ask the question: what do we need to adapt to? We need to get those impact studies first. The second area in which work, to my mind, is lacking but beginning now is the effect on impacts not of the climate change but of the different development pathways. So much of the impacts, the magnitudes and differences in our work stem from the different levels of exposure to the climate change. A global population in a sustainable development pathway shows up perhaps a third less of the impacts in terms of risk of hunger than the business of usual globalised pathways; but these studies have not yet been conducted: that is, of the differences of impact to climate change and the different development pathways.

  44.  You made some predictions on food shortage in your earlier comments: is there sufficient data in these predictions in developing countries; and how certain are you about those predictions?
  (Professor Parry) The number of studies that have been done in this area are few, perhaps less than half a dozen. There are three or four other research teams apart from ourselves. There are certainly differences in the projected outcomes; but the overall figure is the same—that is, an increased number of people at risk of hunger; a reduction in global food production leading to a rise in price, leading to the risk of hunger. I might just add a little more detail to that. Broadly speaking, from the IPCC, one can see something like a projected estimate of a yield reduction, due to climate change, of between 5 and 10 per cent worldwide, leading to something like the equivalent downturn in global food production, from what it is projected by FAO otherwise to be in a future without climate change. Indeed, in food production it is not necessarily the case that the greatest yield reduction in terms of million metric tonnes are in developing countries. Most changes would be in the world's bread basket areas, Australia, Central Europe, the United States and the Canadian Prairies. Saskatchewan, for example, produced about a fifth of the world's traded wheat; and changes here would greatly affect global wheat prices and other food prices. Ultimately, risk of hunger depends on one's ability to pay, as well as one's ability to grow. It is those with low levels of ability to pay in poorer parts of the world that experience the adverse effect of that global price rise. It is a nice illustration of the importance of global studies of climate change, which may be adverse on parts of the world that are not the developing countries but knock-on through the global food system, in this case, into poorer groups and communities.
  (Professor Haines) There are a number of areas where I think we still need quite substantially more research. One, of course, is the interaction between climate change and other environmental change. We are talking about climate change in isolation here today, but of course it is really one of a number of changes, including changes in land use. We know, for example, that deforestation can cause quite dramatic changes locally in distribution of diseases. The other areas would include the effects of extreme events like floods. I did touch on some of the impacts of floods, but there is still a lot we do not know about the full impact on health of floods, particularly in terms of many of the low income countries. What are the medium to long-term effects once the acute emergency has gone away? These may be more pervasive than we originally thought. We also need to get better data, particularly, as Sari Kovats has said, at the edge of the distribution of diseases by malaria, at the altitudinal fringes, for example, of disease distribution. With a very few exceptions, we do not have good data on long-term trends in the disease vectors, e.g. the mosquito or human disease in a number of these areas. It would be very helpful if we could set up longer term monitoring sites in potentially vulnerable locations. Finally, two other points: early warning systems—again, as Sari Kovats has pointed out—do show considerable promise, particularly where malaria epidemics may occur; we need to evaluate just how those can be operationalised and how they can actually integrate with the local health system and any programmes to spray for mosquitoes. Finally, perhaps slightly outside the remit today but nevertheless very important, the near-term health benefits of the greenhouse gas mitigation technologies, renewable energy technologies and so on. We have got a major energy gap; 2 billion people are without an adequate energy supply which has a very big impact on their health; and we need to evaluate the effects of providing renewable technologies to that population which will have, in my view, quite substantial health benefits, in addition to whatever other benefits it may have.
  (Ms Kovats) There have been very few studies that have looked at climate change and health in developing countries, and those all tend to be localised and disease-specific. I think what is needed is a proper impact and adaption assessment—at a regional or a national population level. Some of these have been done in developing countries sponsored by UNEP for their national communications to the UNFCCC. A good example of a research project that is setting up long-term monitoring in the East African Highlands is the DFID supported programme at the London School, which is looking at Highland malaria. They are in the process of setting up monitoring and forecasting systems in Uganda and Kenya so they can take into account the impact of the change in climate as well as all the other factors that affect malaria.

  Tony Worthington: Our interest in this is in terms of how after investigation we would recommend DFID should change its policy. Let me tell you what I have taken out so far. There is nothing in climate change that would make me change DFID's policy by and large, because it is an additional reason for doing what you are doing. What I have taken out of this so far is that I would put a lot of money into reproductive health, so that everybody in the world has got the choice of having children, because numbers affect adversely all you are talking about. I would put a lot of money into basic education and the health service in general to give a sense of control; and I would intensify agricultural research and water distribution research in those countries. Would you agree with all of that, or disagree; or what have I missed out?


  45.  I think the question really is: what changes in policy would you make both here and in developing countries?
  (Professor Nicholls) One thing that was said, I think we are talking about a 20-year timescale—I think with climate change I tend to think of slightly longer timescales, maybe 50 years. Just reflecting back, I think that is one thing I noticed, that I would be thinking about longer term changes. In the coastal arena, there are certainly vulnerable regions, and I mentioned some of them a moment ago. I think it would be useful for an organisation like DFID to ask: where are the places where sea level rise and a climate change on the coast could matter? It would be nice to have some hot spot map which would help policymakers from a top down perspective think, Sea level and climate change are going to be an issue here.

Tony Worthington

  46.  That is not a DFID job, is it?
  (Professor Nicholls) True, no, but that information would be useful for DFID to do its job.

  47.  Then to do what?
  (Professor Nicholls) In terms of identifying those regions, those are the regions where, if one goes in and invests in something, one needs to ask the question: is climate change going to have an impact on this? Should we do it differently because of the risk of climate change?

  48.  It does not tell me what DFID should do in terms of its development policies?
  (Professor Nicholls) The other thing one wants to focus on is also the capacity to manage the coast over these long timescales. I wonder if there is a tendency to think rather shorter term than longer term. I think one wants to bring in this notion of the 50-year timescale when you are thinking about an issue like developing coastal management.


  49.  Is there an extent to which countries that are vulnerable are not wishing nor wanting to face up to that vulnerability; and is there an area there for DFID to help?
  (Professor Nicholls) I would not say not face up to that. I think my view would be that often they have not got the capacity too. DFID could help with increasing that capacity, yes. I think I would reflect it be a little differently. I think DFID could help with that increasing capacity. I think that is all the way through as some of the other speakers have spoken, all the way from the science, to climate change scenarios, to what those impacts might be, to understanding the vulnerabilities and what we might do about it—a whole suite of areas, rather than just the climate change science. We have to go through all the actions that might be taken.
  (Professor Arnell) I think the main thing that climate change challenges is really the assumption that the natural resource base we have got to work with is constant. That has been a long assumption—that the population may change and what is there in the environment is fixed. Climate change has challenged that really quite fundamentally. This is probably more appropriate at specific scheme levels or maybe strategy levels, but I think what DFID could encourage is an approach which considers the effect of different possible climate and, indeed, other futures on the viability of a strategy scheme (and there are some big questions there as to how you go about it), but considering what would happen if things were different with the climate, with the land use, whatever. Would that effect the viability of a particular scheme or strategy? The other thing which climate change has done, rather strangely, is led people to understand much more clearly the way climate varies naturally. Trying to unpick the climate change signal from climate vulnerability has triggered a lot of research into the nature of climatic variability. We are increasingly understanding the way that operates. We are increasingly recognising the additional assumption that one year is very much like another, whichever one comes out of the hat, and that assumption is not really appropriate any more. It is understanding there are several periods of unusual weather, even without climate change, which may be important for the way a particular scheme and a particular strategy operates. Not assuming that the resource base you are working with is constant is one of the big lessons of climate change. Running through different possibilities, and that may open a series of issues as to how do you choose then what to do, given that you do not know what the future might be like—that seems to me to be one of the big challenges, which may challenge fundamentally the way some things are done, particularly the non-investment strategies and schemes.
  (Professor Parry) Perhaps I could add to that, by saying I believe (and I think my colleagues' works shows this also in their fields) that there are a number of what we would call "win-win" strategies that DFID and its parallel agencies in other countries could adopt; which is to meet the challenge of short-term climate shocks, whether it is building resilience in agriculture, providing for efficient water availability, defending coasts near-term, which is largely its job; but, at the same time, that incidentally builds in resilience to long-term climate change, but not in every case. It makes sense to drought-proof agriculture in Africa short-term in ways that make it less drought-prone under long-term climate change. You could target near-term challenges, and also meet the long-term, and that targeting is now possible. Secondly, I have mentioned, I think there could be a good deal more successful coordination between different countries in the impact and adaptation studies that they are promoting. For example, DEFRA is funding studies in China and India, you heard on January 9 and I was reading about. I would be surprised if there were not other studies being funded in those countries, or in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, for example. I would be surprised if they were based upon the same assumptions but we would gain a lot from them being. Finally, I think there is an important realisation growing in the research community that needs to be translated through you and others to DFID and like-minded agencies that adaptation is going to be essential; that mitigation is not going to avoid the problem. It will take 10 or 20 times the current Kyoto level of emissions draw down to avoid significant impact, and this scale of mitigation simply is not going to be feasible. Looking at how climate is going to change sustainable development is, to my mind, not the whole issue. From our point of view it is clear that, unless there is a sustainable pathway there are going to be millions at risk. Sustainable development is an imperative pathway if we are to avoid those. Climate change policies, to be effective, need to be part of a sustainable development pathway. It seems to me that that thinking of this kind needs to begin and start to make itself felt in policies of DFID.
  (Professor Haines) Yes, I endorse obviously what my colleagues have said. I would like to make three points: firstly just to re-emphasise the importance of capacity building particularly in the south, either by south-south collaboration, or by north-south collaboration. I think one of the messages that comes through today is that it has to be multi-disciplinary. You have seen the spectrum of the disciplines here this morning, and they need to be linked in with climatological research; that, I think, is a very important area. That will allow much better long-term planning; but also, as Martin has said, near-term benefits in terms of improving our capacity to adapt to climate variability. One specific example of that is the El Niño phenomenon, which of course is a natural phenomenon which may well be affected and perhaps is already affected by climate change. We know from studies around the world that this has a major impact on health in all sorts of ways, by increasing the rate of disasters, by changing malaria incidence and so on. If we could strengthen the capacity of low income countries to respond to the El Niño by more proactive planning within the public health sector, that could have major benefits for long-term adaptation to climate change. That is just one specific example. The third area I would talk about is surveillance. As we have mentioned, surveillance of climate-sensitive diseases and health indicators, particularly on the edge of current distribution, in my view would be well worth investing in to give us early warning of whether disease distribution is changing and, if so, whether it is likely to be due to climate. The long-term collection of data, in my view, is a good investment.

Mr Battle

  50.  In all of this what is coming across strongly is the need for more accurate data. Who would collect it? Would it be institutes, universities, professors from the north who may take an interest in the country and go out and do some research there; or are there real efforts within the developing countries, if not within their own universities, is there work to do to strengthen that capacity? Are there alliances between north and south universities, as it were? Where will the money come from to collect the data and to put that capacity in at the first stage?
  (Ms Kovats) That is already happening. DFID supports demographic and disease surveillance activities; there are several demographic and household surveys going on in Tanzania, for example. All that information (which is not specifically to address vector-borne diseases) is used to target the health services in that country and it is done through the ministry of health and is seen as a capacity-building activity. Some of that work could then be additionally targeted to more climatic-sensitive diseases.

  51.  At the lower levels?
  (Ms Kovats) Yes, through the national ministry of health, but supported by DFID and in collaboration with universities in the north.

  52.  At that level of ministries of health or universities and institutes is there the capacity and is work being done on actually analysing the impact, given the future, the timescale possibilities? Are people being as realistic as they can, using the international information; are people doing real impact and risk assessments at the local level?
  (Ms Kovats) Specifically on climate change and health impact assessment in developing countries, there have been very very few. That is something we think should be done.
  (Professor Parry) At a guess, there are perhaps two or three dozen country-level studies underway that are either funded by the World Bank, or by agencies such as DFID that we know about and are, in a sense, modelled on quality controlled and comparable yardsticks which the IPCC tries to put out. In addition, no doubt there are many, many hundreds of studies being conducted at the local level. When these studies are formulated they are not placed in the global context; they do not have similar sets of assumptions; they are not measuring the same things; their researchers are not in touch with their colleagues in neighbouring countries, or vertically with the IPCC. Consequently, a lot of the value of those studies is potentially being lost, and it is difficult to draw together an international picture. Although the impacts are local, and the adaptations indeed have to be devised locally, it is the international picture which affects a lot of this local pattern.

  53.  You surprise me there, and I know a shortage of energy means you cannot plug in, but with new technology, with internet connections and the scientific world sharing data and coordinating data, is it the lack of gear, as it were, hardware and software, or is it the lack of will to do it and organisation?
  (Professor Haines) I think from the health point of view it is a combination of factors. One is that collecting data is obviously a lower priority for many countries than trying to struggle with the every day realities of the health system; so it is way down the priority list; which is one reason why DFID, for example, might put some resources into making sure that long-term data collection is occurring and people are availing themselves of the opportunity to connect with the internet, for example. That seems to me to be a very good potential investment for DFID. The other thing is, as we mentioned before, the capacity issue. We know there is a tremendous brain drain of scientists, say, from Africa. The majority of African scientists are not working in Africa. We do need to strengthen capacity by helping to make it possible for African scientists to stay in Africa with adequate resources and adequate infrastructure. That, again, seems to me to be the important message.

  54.  Universities are very young, but are the key scientists here (because environmental study is very popular in our universities now) keen to go to Africa and South East Asia as a place to do their work because they see it as a priority, to collaborate that way?
  (Professor Haines) At the London School we have a number of people who doing PhDs or Masters projects who are going out to Africa, and to parts of East Africa in particular and doing this kind of work, but what is really essential is the long-term commitment. One can certainly learn something from short-term studies, but it is the long-term that counts.


  55.  The impression is that quite a lot of work is being done internationally and nationally but no-one is actually putting it together. Who should be doing that? Should that be done, so far as health is concerned, by the WHO, and coastal defence and water in relation to UNEC? Who do you see as the natural agencies for drawing that work together?
  (Professor Parry) There is a natural agency which draws together the results and conclusions of those studies, which is the IPCC. I think more the major issue is formulating these sets of studies and developing the data sets or, more specifically, making them available in a coordinated way. In other words, the front end of the research issue. At the moment a lot of the effort devolves upon the World Climate Research Programme, WCRP, the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme, the IGBP, and the International Human Dimensions Global Change Programme, IHDP. Those are the three international research groupings that have developed in their own right as a result of the scientists' interests that attempt to coordinate this research. They are funded at an extremely low level, with small grants from the Royal Society and their equivalent bodies in other countries. There is no UN funding input and, as far as I know, there is no major country level DFID-type input. In a sense, there is this quite loose and rather leisurely structure, but it is not being funded urgently at the international or government level; it is rather being funded and pushed along by the researchers themselves and their own network.
  (Professor Haines) Could I just add to that? The WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Rome has done some very useful work in coordinating climate and health researchers in Europe; but if you look globally the situation is not as good because the Geneva headquarters of WHO has one part-time person on climate and health. That is inadequate to coordinate the surveillance and research programmes that are needed.
  (Ms Kovats) WHO at the moment (and I am involved with this) is specifically trying to develop guidelines for developing countries to undertake health and climate change impact assessments. The WHO would not have the capacity to support individual assessments in individual countries, and that is what DFID would be able to do.

Mr Robathan

  56.  Just relating to Professor Parry's comments, you particularly stress in your paper headed `Climate Change and Sustainable Development'[19] that, "A world with . . . lower population levels will experience much smaller levels of negative impact from climate change . . .", and you stress the importance of population levels. DFID has a very good programme on reproductive health assistance, and I know various members of the Committee are concerned about that matter. Also, we all understand that it is quite a sensitive area, but you stress it. What do you think we could do in policy terms to encourage what is globally, in your opinion, extraordinarily important?

  (Professor Parry) Perhaps by way of a bit more on that, because this group is just now beginning to calculate those millions at risk for different world futures. The IPCC has developed a set of characterisations of world futures. One is, in a sense, a sustainable development plan and they have called it B2, and one can read about it at length in this report; and the other is a sort of business as usual pathway, as you or I would call it, with the global population in 2050 at about 50 per cent again as much as in the sustainable development future. These are well characterised now in quantitative and narrative terms. We are just beginning to complete, as it were, the first set of studies. There are millions at risk of water and coastal flooding and at risk of hunger. The numbers adversely affected are potentially much, much lower in a sustainable developed world with a population a few thousand million less, let us say, than in the business as usual world. It is not so surprising when you think those extra 2,000 to 3,000 millions are in Africa and South East Asia; they are the exposed population. Which is why I said, without asking my colleagues here, that the policies of climate change, as is emerging from our and others work, have to be (to be successful) placed in the context of an integrated strategy for sustainable development. They will not work otherwise, because impacts are all about exposure, as much as anything else. You ask me, what can we do about it, and there I begin to get lost because it is not really my field. I hope, having said that, that there are enough people in DFID to look at the ways in which sustainable development can be promoted in order to reduce that exposure. I know I have not been able to answer your question properly because I do not feel qualified; what I have tried to do is to put the issue out there in ways that others can answer it more effectively.

  57.  It is terribly important. You give it priority. Sustainable development means many things to many people; but you would say that sustainable development is very closely tied into the need to limit population growth?
  (Professor Parry) No, not just that by any means. These characterisations of a sustainable world by the IPCC, specifically the B2 world, are ones in which one has a much more resilient drought-proof agriculture which is using water in a much more efficient way. Income is spent on defending its coasts; which has lower levels of population, which have much higher levels of income, which incidentally do not use fossil fuels at the same rates. It is a whole package which makes a population not only lower, but much more resilient to those knocks that would come from climate change. I do not think, by any means, it is simply a case of fewer numbers of people. I may have used that as an example to characterise these different worlds; but there are very many characterisations that make for that world and make for its increased resilience over and above the business as usual world.

Ann Clwyd

  58.  Professor Haines, I think you said that the majority of African scientists are working outside Africa. Where are they working? Is the same true of South East Asia?
  (Professor Haines) I do not have figures for South East Asia. In terms of African scientists, many of them work in North America, and to a lesser extent in Europe. There is a real problem of how to stem this brain drain. It is not just a question of scientists, but also the health profession; there are many doctors and nurses working outside their country of origin. It is a real problem and I do not think the world has yet got a regulatory system to allow us to deal with that. The fact is that we and particularly the US benefit greatly from the import of professionals trained at very low cost to ourselves and themselves, yet there is no system by which we can pay that back.

Chris McCafferty

  59.  I have a question for Professor Parry, just taking you further on Andrew's point about population and sustainability, because obviously we are looking at the impact on DFID's policy: would you agree, and perhaps I could open this up to other members, that it would be a useful tool in developing a sustainable policy and helping people defend against climate change if DFID was to increase its percentage of ODA it spends on sexual and reproductive health? Obviously that is an issue, but would you agree that that would be a good way of DFID's spending its money overseas?
  (Professor Parry) I am sorry, I am not really equipped to answer that.
  (Professor Haines) I think there are good reasons for doing that anyway, irrespective of climate change. As Martin said, population is one element and the other element, of course, is the excessive, in many people's eyes, use of fossil fuels by the industrialised countries. If you look at the relative contribution, it is the very high per capita emissions of greenhouse gases in industrialised countries which is even more important in driving climate change than the emissions from a much larger population in low income countries at this stage. Of course, as the population in low and middle income counties starts to develop and require more fossil fuels then unless renewable energy sources are widely used their contribution to climate change goes up, so ultimately both population and per capita emissions are important. I suppose it is another argument really for investing more in reproductive health. We need to put it in context. The recent WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, has tried to chart a path for the future in terms of developing sustainable health services. It has pointed out that the average low income country spends very little per capita on health[20]; but you cannot provide adequate primary care, including reproductive health, for that kind of money. They have suggested maybe $30-45 per capita per year would be necessary for a sustainable very basic health system. That is what we have to move towards. We have to mobilise money internationally and, as much as we can, within the country to develop that basic primary care system which will provide sexual reproductive health as well as the other basic primary care.

  Chairman: Thank you very much for coming to give evidence today, and making plain to us areas of policy and science which is actually quite complex. We are very, very grateful to you.

19   Ev 39. Back

20   For example, the 48 least developed countries on average spend only $6 per capita annually from their budgets (with another $5 per capita or so coming out of pocket expenses). Back

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