GENEVA (Reuters) - Millions of jobs worldwide could be casualties of climate change, though efforts to mitigate its effects will also create huge new waves of employment, United Nations officials said on Monday.
The heads of the U.N. climate and weather agencies told diplomats that global warming could decimate the world fisheries sector, threaten the tourism industry and cause widespread job losses among those displaced by its impacts.
At the same time, U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said scores of new jobs would be created in the environment technology sector as countries work to avoid and lessen the effects of climate change.
In the United States, there are already more environmental workers than those in the pharmaceutical industry, and in Germany environmental employment will eclipse the auto sector by 2020, Steiner said.
“Global warming and the need to respond to climate change is becoming a major impulse for innovation and efficiency gains,” he told diplomats, trade unionists and business representatives at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Rising global temperatures, linked by scientists to human activity such as burning carbon dioxide-emitting fuels, are expected to cause dramatic sea-level increases and disrupt weather patterns worldwide, triggering fierce storms and droughts that may drive many people from their homes.
Such trends are already well under way, World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told the session at the ILO’s Geneva headquarters.
“Warming is taking place even faster than the models predicted,” he said, signaling major adjustments ahead for both businesses and workers whose livelihoods may be at risk.
Matthew Farrow of the Confederation of British Industry cited a recent poll saying that global warming concerns were having a “fairly” or “very” big impact on the operations of more than 70 percent of businesses.
He said government actions to restrict carbon emissions, or address the impacts of climate change, would have a big effect on European manufacturers and factory workers in coming years.
Labour union leaders also cited global warming as a major consideration for the coming years, calling for clear long-term strategies to help uprooted workers.
“The problem is the jobs that will be created will not be created at the same time, or in the same place, as the ones that are lost,” said Joaquin Nieto, president of Sustainlabour, an international foundation for sustainable development.
“We are talking about a major change, as substantial as what resulted in the industrial revolution,” he told the forum.
Editing by Peter Millership