The Heat Is Online

Climate Impacts Claim 300,000 Lives a Year

Climate change study counts high human toll


Financial Times, May 29 2009


Climate change is claiming 300,000 lives a year and costing the global economy $125bn annually, with the damage set to escalate rapidly, according to the first study of the immediate effects of global warming.

A further 300m people around the world are seriously affected by climate change through, for instance, malnutrition or disease and by being displaced from their homes, according to a report from the Global Humanitarian Forum.

The study examines the effects of climate change today, rather than relying on projections of the future possible damage from a warming climate.

Kofi Annan, the president of the Global Humanitarian Forum and former United Nations secretary-general, said: Climate change is causing suffering to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Barbara Stocking, chief executive of the aid group Oxfam, added: People think [climate change] is something happening in the future. But we know that it is happening now. Ms Stocking called on industrialised countries to make more funds available to poor nations that would help them adapt to the ravages of global warming.

The study was compiled using a widely accepted methodology for examining the effects of climate change developed by the World Health Organisation. Dalberg Global Development Advisors, which carried out the study, used the WHO standards to calculate the extra deaths which could be attributed to global warming.

They ignored those that would be expected to occur anyway as a result of other causes, such as population growth, the spread of disease, poverty, environmental degradation and natural weather events.

To calculate the economic damage, they used some of the analytical tools developed for the Stern Review, the 2006 report into the economic consequences of climate change commissioned by the UK Treasury.

The losses to the world economy, which Fridays report predicted would rise to $340bn (¬241bn, £210bn) a year by 2030, spring from factors such as lower crop yields as temperatures rise, malnutrition and the spread of disease and consequent strain on health services.

By 2030, more than 500,000 people will die every year because of the effects of warming temperatures, the report found.

Also, by 2030, the report estimates, more than 660m people will be suffering the damage of climate change.

Mr Annan said that both the private and public sector must come up with answers to the problem ahead of negotiations in Copenhagen this December, which are aimed at drawing up a successor to the Kyoto protocol, the main provisions of which expire in 2012.

The businesses and nations primarily responsible for the emissions causing climate change have to take the lead in tackling the problem, he said.

Both rich and poor countries would be affected by the changes in the climate, he said, but the poor were much more badly equipped to cope.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009