There's no doubt UNFCCC delegates are feeling a great deal of pressure to make some tangible progress here at the COP16 climate conference in Cancun. But that pressure may be ratcheted up a notch after the Dec. 3 release of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, the first definitive study of the impacts of climate change on human health.
The report was prepared by DARA, a leading humanitarian research organization in conjunction with the CVF (Climate Vulnerable Forum) an alliance of 11 nations* that are experiencing the most direct impacts of climate change. The paper was peer reviewed by 11 experts on human health, climate science and disaster relief.
The report offers some sobering findings. Already there are an estimated 350,000 climate-related deaths per year, and that number is expected to nearly double by 2020 and triple by 2030. Not surprisingly, most of those impacted will be children and women in the poorest parts of the world.
The data charts provided in the report reveal a tragic irony — the countries that pollute the most are affected the least. Compare North America with East Africa across four impact types — economic loss, habitat loss, human health and extreme weather impacts:
In the U.S. and Canada, habitat loss increases significantly, but all other impact types remain constant. Africa starts out worse, and gets far worse with mortality doubling while habitat and economic losses quadruple.
DARA director Ross Mountain tries to put these findings in perspective:
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.
The world is now experiencing about $130 billion in financial losses due to climate change. By 2020, that number will rise to $200 billion, and by 2030 it will be close to $275 billion in annual losses related to managing marketing instabilities, sea level rise and disaster impacts.
The report, though sobering, does end on a brighter note with 50 measures that governments can begin implementing right now to stave off the worst impacts predicted by the Climate Vulnerability Monitor.
* The 11 nations are Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Kiribati, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Rwanda, Tanzania, Vietnam and Maldives.