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UN panel releases summary on risk management in face of increased environmental disasters

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [official website], a UN-led scientific panel, on Saturday released the Summary for Policymakers [PDF] of the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). The summary highlights a number of options [press release] available to policymakers to decrease the risk of disasters as well as to lessen their impact in areas that have historically been more vulnerable than others. One key finding contained within the summary relates to the effect of increased greenhouse gases, which many scientists attribute to the increase in maximum and minimum daily temperatures. The summary also indicates that those communities that are the most vulnerable and thus experience the most exposure to these types of disasters are "generally the outcome of skewed development processes such as those associated with environmental degradation, rapid and unplanned urbanization in hazardous areas, failures of governance, and the scarcity of livelihood options for the poor." As a result, the summary calls on policymakers to consider a range of measures in order to better manage the risks posed by extreme events and disasters, from sustainable land management and land use planning to improvements in governance and technology. The summary was released [WSJ report] weeks before global environmental officials will gather in Durban, South Africa, for climate-change talks. The full report is set to be released in February 2012.

In July, the UN Security Council [official website] made their first official statement [JURIST report] implicating climate change as a serious threat to world peace and security. At the urging of Germany, which released a Concept Note [text] to lead the discussion, the Security Council debated global warming [EPA materials; JURIST news archive] for the first time since 2007. Although Germany pushed for plans of action to be produced on extreme temperatures, rising sea-levels, climate refugees and food shortages, the Council ended up issuing a brief statement instead. The language was reportedly not as strong as some of the nations wanted [BBC report], as Russia pushed for the phrase "possible security implications" in the official text, and denied the other countries the creation of a "green helmets" peacekeeping force [Guardian report] that would step into conflicts where environmental resources become scarce. The statement did affirm that depleting resources has been, and will continue to be, the cause of several international conflicts.

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