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Climate-carbon crisis could kill 100 million people by 2030

By Tierney Smith

Five million people die every year as a result of the carbon economy and the impacts of climate change, according to the latest edition of DARA’s Climate Vulnerability Monitor.

Published today, the report warns this could rise to six million by 2030, with 700,000 of those deaths from climate change related impacts. It estimates 100 million people could die as a result of climate-carbon deaths by 2030.

Currently 400,000 of these annual deaths are a consequence of climate change, with the majority of victims young children. Another 4.5 million deaths are caused from the world’s reliance on carbon intensive energy. Those mortalities are linked to air pollution and jobs such as mining that expose workers to high levels of toxins.

“Governments and international policy makers must act decisively to combat the spiralling costs to national and global GDP resulting from inaction on climate change,” said DARA Trustee and Carbon War Room President José Maria Figueres.

“The Monitor shows how failure to do so has already caused unprecedented damage to the world economy and threatens human life across the globe. With the investment required to solve climate change already far below the estimated costs of inaction, no doubt remains as to the path worth taking.”

(Source: DARA/Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2012)

The latest edition of the Monitor, entitled A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet, calculates and compares the vulnerability of 184 countries to climate change and the high-carbon economy. In particular it highlights the economic consequences of climate inaction.

It warns climate change has already set back global development by 1% of GDP – that’s around $700 billion. What the Monitor terms the “carbon crisis” has cost the global economy 0.7% more GDP, and combined these crises are expected to increase this to over 3% by 2030.

Those costs could rise to $2.5 trillion by 2030, with promises of particular pain for the world’s poorest communities. Currently 250 million people are under pressure from sea-level rises; 20 million from extreme weather events; 25 million from permafrost thaw; and 5 million from desertification.

Pa Ousman Jarju, Chairman of the Least Developed Country group at the UN climate talks told RTCC that the report made it clear that developing nations are most at risk from climate change.

“The second edition of the climate vulnerability monitor demonstrates with piercing clarity that it is the Least Developed Countries that have the most to lose unless we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “This report confirms many earlier scientific assessments, including from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but adds hard economic numbers to the earlier qualitative conclusions.

“The International Energy Agency keeps telling us that we are running out of time to change the direction of our carbon intensive energy system if we are to keep warming below 2°C (and of any chance at below 1.5°C). And now this report shows that the Least Developed Countries too, are running out of time: what country or group of countries can accept an 8% GDP loss by 2030?”

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her country would face the prospect of severe financial impacts from climate change.

“A one degree Celsius rise in temperature is associated with 10% productivity loss in farming. For us, it means losing about four million metric tonnes of food grain, amounting to about $2.5 billion,” she said.

“That is about 2% of our GDP. Adding up the damages to property and other losses, we are faced with a total loss of about 3-4% of GDP. Without these losses, we could have easily secured much higher growth.”

Mitigation

While some damage from global warming is unavoidable, the worst impacts of human losses can be mitigated with appropriate finance, according to the study. Programmes to reduce rural poverty, hunger and disease could help limit the health impacts of climate change in the poorest countries.

Better clean air regulations, safer working conditions and modern energy solutions could help those at risk from carbon-intensive energy systems.

But only the “firmest responses” will close the door on the risks, warns the report. It says moving to a low-carbon future will be the most effective way to hold back the worst effects of climate change and at the same time limit the impacts of carbon-intensive systems.

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