Climate inaction will kill 5 million people, mostly children, by 2020

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Report released in Cancun today details a large-scale crisis with some impacts increasing by over 300% globally by 2030.

From Climate Vulnerability 2010: The State of the Climate Crisis

Climate vulnerability by the numbers

  • NEARLY 1 MILLION climate change driven deaths estimated every single year from 2030 if action is not taken
  • SOME 5 MILLION climate deaths estimated over the next ten years in absence of an effective response
  • ALREADY 350,000 climate deaths estimated each year today
  • ALMOST 80% of all climate deaths are registered only among children living in south asia or sub-saharan Africa
  • OVER 99% of all mortality occurs in developing countries
  • CLOSE TO 10 MILLION people estimated to be living under threat from climate driven desertification by 2030, up from 2.5 million today
  • AROUND 150 BILLION DOLLARS in losses to today’s economy estimated to be caused by climate change
  • SOME 170 countries — or most of the world — have high vulnerability to climate change in at least one key impact area already today
  • MORE THAN 50 countries acutely vulnerable to climate change today are in urgent most need of support
  • MORE THAN HALF of the total economic losses take place in industrialized countries
  • OVER 50 highly effective measures included in this report are readily available to limit virtually all harm caused by climate change


News Release: December 3, 2010

State of the Climate Report:
Inaction to Kill 5 million ? Mostly Children ? by 2020

  • Groundbreaking “Climate Vulnerability Monitor” exposes world headed for nearly 1 million deaths every single year by 2030 without corrective actions – 350,000 lives lost annually already today – the most acute countries stand on climate brink
  • Industrialised countries are not spared, suffering more than half of all economic costs – an explosive increase in every main climate stress is set to plunge world into a third-of-a-trillion dollar annual crisis within 20 years
  • Virtually all harm caused by climate change preventable today through readily available and cost-effective responses – report details over 50
  • Leaders and people everywhere urged not to risk further catastrophe: “inaction unconscionable”

DARA, a leading humanitarian research organisation, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of committed most vulnerable countries, today launch a major new global report on the state of the climate crisis. The “Climate Vulnerability Monitor” reveals distinct vulnerabilities in 184 countries and all regions of the world to short-term impacts of climate change just as the slow search for an international deal to tackle longer-term global warming continues at the UN climate summit in Cancún, Mexico (COP-16).

The Climate Vulnerability Monitor, backed by leading international authorities on climate change, categorises countries across the world into low; moderate; high; severe; or acute vulnerability to its impact. The report’s barometer assesses each country according to estimated effects in the four key areas of health, weather disasters, human habitat loss and economic stresses on affected sectors and natural resources.

The Monitor points to a large-scale crisis with some impacts increasing by over 300% globally by 2030. In less than 20 years, almost all countries in the world – over 170 – will realise high vulnerability to at least one major climate impact as the planet heats up: “the fate of the vulnerable will be the fate of the world.”

Today, the majority of impacts are still highly concentrated in more than 50 acutely vulnerable low-income countries, urgently needing assistance. Close to 80% of the entire human toll of climate change exclusively concerns children in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia succumbing to malnutrition, diarrheal disease or malaria, discloses the report. Communities most exposed and vulnerable are being completely overwhelmed by just small increases in extreme weather, leading to situations similar to this year’s floods in Pakistan.

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, founder of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, said: “The Maldives stands at the climate change frontline. So it has always been crystal clear to us what must be done. But what happens to the Maldives today, will happen to others tomorrow. The Monitor helps to bring that clarity of vision to the entire world. We aim to become carbon neutral as a country by 2020. Those who follow our lead and adopt renewable energy and green technologies will be the winners of the twenty-first century.”

Half of all economic losses fall on industrialised countries, with the United States worst hit by overall damage costs. But climate change will seriously worsen global inequalities. Smaller total economic losses mask seriously greater relative costs elsewhere: more than 4% of GDP on average for the South Pacific region. Where poverty is most extreme, especially Africa, so is the degree of economic losses. And over 99% of all fatalities occur in developing countries.

“If we let pressures more than triple, or worse, no amount of humanitarian assistance or development aid is going to stem the suffering and devastation. Highly fragile countries will become graveyards over which we pour billions of dollars. Low-lying islands will simply not be viable anymore, then disappear. We will all pay and we will pay big time,” said DARA Director General Ross Mountain, who previously headed large UN field operations, including for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq.

Global human development goals currently at risk of not being met correspond exactly to those areas where climate change impacts are felt the most: child mortality, hunger and extreme poverty. “Woefully inadequate” existing national plans indicate a burning need to step up support from major emitters to frontline countries facing the harshest changes.

Highly effective responses exist for dealing with almost every type of impact faced today according to the report, which details over 50 possible responses to different effects. Avoiding widespread death from climate-sensitive diseases like malaria is particularly cost-effective. Nowhere near the required level of measures have been implemented, especially in the most vulnerable places on earth.

John Ashton, UK Special Representative for Climate Change speaking at the launch said: “Failure to respond to climate change will intensify competition for resources and shrink the political space for cooperation. It is an affront to fairness, since it puts the greatest burden on those who did least to cause the problem and are least able to deal with its consequences.”

DARA Trustee and advisor to the report, José María Figueres, Former President of Costa Rica, said: “Impacts clearly fall disproportionately on the poor and the young. Half of the world’s population is under 25 years old, and our actions now will determine the state of world they inherit. The world’s youth is ready to take action to address climate change, but it is our responsibility to take leadership to accelerate in the transition to a low carbon economy.”

While estimates may be higher or lower, the report expects it most likely understates the impact of climate change since many known effects are not measured due to inadequate data or limits to existing scientific inquiry. The report calls for urgent attention to key research questions that limit our understanding of climate vulnerability. Nevertheless, the findings “are unlikely to fundamentally change”. The report emphasizes the serious but avoidable harm it outlines as clear justification that inaction is inexcusable, and further global warming, reckless.