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KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - At-risk communities in disaster-prone Asia are warning that they have "no hope" of coping with more climate catastrophes and some even fear "extinction" if the world does not act quicker, after the U.N. said global warming was close to being out of control.
Climate experts are also concerned the effects could worsen inequalities in a region where many people rely on natural resources for their livelihoods, pushing more into poverty.
The U.N. climate science panel on Monday warned in a major report that the average global temperature will likely cross the 1.5-degree Celsius warming threshold within the next 20 years - bringing stronger droughts, heatwaves, floods and storms. [nL1N2PG0BV}
Such devastating impacts are already being felt in Asia-Pacific, the world's most disaster-prone region which saw a record number of climate-related emergencies in 2020, according to a Red Cross study, affecting tens of millions of people.
"Our governments are too slow in responding," said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development, an alliance representing more than 50 groups in Asia campaigning on climate change and other issues.
Nacpil said the impacts outlined in the new U.N. report are already a "regular feature of life" in her country, the Philippines, where over the last decade people have faced more powerful typhoons and increasingly frequent floods.
"If (governments' actions are) as slow as today, then we have no hope, no chance to be fully prepared for this," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Manila.
"There will be unavoidable damages. Where can you relocate if you are coastal communities and ravaged by storm surge like on many islands in the Philippines? There's nowhere to go."
Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed said the Indian Ocean archipelago on the frontline of rising seas is already grappling with severe impacts and called for action before it is too late.
One of the world's lowest-lying countries, more than 80% of the Maldives' land is less than 1 metre (3.3 ft) above mean sea level, making its population of about 530,000 people extremely vulnerable to storm surges, sea swells and wild weather.
The U.N. report warned Greenland's ice sheet is "virtually certain" to continue melting and raising sea level, which will continue to increase for centuries to come as the oceans warm and expand.
"This report is devastating news for the most climate-vulnerable countries - like the Maldives - because it confirms we are on the edge of extinction," Nasheed said.
Written by 234 scientific authors from around the world, the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) comes just three months before a major U.N. climate conference known as COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.