Man the Dikes for Climate Change

Article excerpt

What to do? A glacier that provides water to Peru's capital is melting away fast, perhaps gone in 25 years. Should the people of Lima pay to desalinate seawater, bring in water on ships, or simply move? Like the Whos of Dr. Seuss's Whoville, many parts of the world are looking for a Horton to help them adjust to global warming, which is forecast to last for decades even if radical steps are taken soon to curb greenhouse gases. Tomorrow, the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases a report with its best estimates on which parts of the planet lie in harm's way of the new weather patterns. Its suggestions will serve as a global guide to adapting to hotter weather, rising seas, more severe droughts, or increased floods. Rich countries in northern climes will be less affected, be better able to cope, and may even see benefits in farming. But because their decades of greenhouse-gas emissions helped make them rich, they have the most obligation to assist poorer, warmer countries that pollute less and yet are most vulnerable to climate change. In some industrialized nations, adaptation is well under way. Australia's drought-hit Perth has a desalinization plant powered by wind farms. Holland, already well- diked against tides, is raising its flood defenses, as are London and Manhattan. More farmers are turning to drought-resistant grain seeds. In the American West, rights to scarce water are being readjusted. Africa, which emits only 3 percent of greenhouse gases but has more than 800 million people, is most vulnerable to an increase in droughts. It's also the largest recipient of special international funds aimed at climate-change adaptation. …