A shocking new analysis warns that if the danger of climate change continues to be ignored by the world's governments, the encroaching disaster could claim the lives of 100 million people in the next two decades and lost economic prosperity to in world economies would be measured in the trillions of dollars.
Findings contained in the “Climate Vulnerability Monitor”—a study sponsored by 20 nations and conducted by the humanitarian and development research organization DARA—point to unprecedented harm to human society and current economic development if runaway carbon emissions are not contained and new models of energy generation and consumption are not pursued.
"A combined climate-carbon crisis is estimated to claim 100 million lives between now and the end of the next decade," the report said.
The study estimates human and economic impacts for 184 countries in 2010 and 2030 across a wide range of separate effects. Indicators of impact range from issues such as hunger and skin cancer, to permafrost thawing and sea-level rise, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and fisheries, biodiversity and forest deterioration.
Responding to the report, Oxfam International executive director Jeremy Hobbs told Reuters that the costs of political inaction on climate were "staggering".
"The losses to agriculture and fisheries alone could amount to more than $500 billion per year by 2030, heavily focussed in the poorest countries where millions depend on these sectors to make a living," he said.
Connie Hedegaard, the European Union's climate chief, warned that extreme weather was becoming more common, as the effects of climate change take hold. "Climate change and weather extremes are not about a distant future," she wrote in a comment for the Guardian last week. "Formerly one-off extreme weather episodes seem to be becoming the new normal."
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The report, which is being officially presented in New York City on Wednesday, is the second such study conducted by DARA. The first was released in 2010.
"1.3 billion people are still fighting their way out of the most extreme forms of poverty while major economies are today fighting their way out of crippling financial and economic crises," said DARA Trustee and former president of Costa Rica José María Figueres in response to the report's findings.
"Governments and international policy makers must act decisively to combat the spiraling costs to national and global GDP resulting from inaction on climate change," he said. "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.”
The new Monitor report, subtitled “A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet (pdf),” juxtaposes on the one hand the large-scale anticipated increases in fossil fuel consumption over the coming decades with the enormous human and developmental consequences of this. However, it also points out that decisions taken on cold monetary terms alone would actually favour strong action on climate change globally and regionally.
Key findings from the report include the following estimates:
• Failure to act on climate change already costs the world economy 1.6% of global GDP amounting to $1.2 trillion in forgone prosperity a year
• Rapidly escalating temperatures and carbon-related pollution will double costs to 3.2% of world GDP by 2030
• Losses for lower-income countries are already extreme: 11% of GDP on average for Least Developed Countries already by 2030
• Major economies are heavily hit: in less than 20 years China will incur the greatest share of all losses at over $1.2 trillion; the US economy will be held back by more 2% of GDP; India, over 5% of its GDP
• Economic losses dwarf the modest costs tackling climate change: emission reductions at just 0.5% of GDP for the next decade; and support to the vulnerable: a minimum of $150 billion per year for developing countries
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