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Human-induced climate change is affecting patterns of extreme weather across the globe, resulting in higher risk of humanitarian disasters. This is especially true in areas where there already are high levels of human vulnerability concludes a new report entitled Humanitarian Implications of Climate Change: Mapping emerging trends and risk hotspots, which was carried out by CARE International, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Maplecroft.

Climate Change

The Earth is warming. Evidence includes a well-documented increase in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising sea levels. This is triggering a shift in seasons, changes in when/how much rain falls in different parts of the world, and changes in extreme weather.

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As such, climate change is blurring the distinction between "natural" and "manmade" hazards. Although weather-related hazards, such as droughts and floods, would occur regardless of whether or not we add greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, our actions have consequences.

In fact, an increase in temperature extremes, the area affected by drought and the frequency of heavy precipitation events, as well as changes in wind patterns and storm tracks, have already been measured - and the consensus amongst experts is that we are to blame.

When hazards hit areas where people have limited capacity to reduce their level of risk, manage or deal with the aftermath of extreme weather, the results can be truly "disastrous." This is especially so in areas where population density is high and growing too quickly for good planning.

Mapping the Hazards of Climate Change for Humanitarians

This study uses a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) mapping approach to attempt to understand how the projected impacts of climate change will intersect with existing patterns of human vulnerability or so called disaster risk hotspots.

This allows the identification of current and future hotspots of climate change risk. The results illustrate the implications of climate change for humanitarian assistance so that policymakers can grasp the nature and scale of the challenge we face and humanitarian actors can begin adapting their response strategies to the realities of climate change.

The study builds on recent publications and data relating to trends in natural hazards and their relationship with climate change, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, the World Bank's Natural Disasters Hotspots: a Global Risk Analysis, the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change and the Human Development Report 2007/8._It complements the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' (OCHA) recent work to improve risk analysis and mapping which combines historical data with forward looking climate model projections. Technical details of the methodology used for this study, as well as its limitations, are presented in a _Technical Annex.