Sunday, December 5, 2010

Climate Change Megadeath

Large Impacts Can Be Mitigated

Rusted ships abandoned on the receded shore of the Aral Sea
The former port city of Muynak, Uzbekistan
What will happen in the absence of an effective response to address climate change? The following estimates are key findings of a report issued Friday by DARA International:
  • Nearly 1,000,000 climate change-driven deaths estimated every single year from 2030
  • Some 5,000,000 climate deaths over the next 10 years
  • Already 350,000 climate deaths each year currently
  • 80% of those deaths are of children in South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa
  • 99% of all mortality occurs in developing countries
  • 2,500,000 people are living under threat from climate-driven desertification today
  • By 2030 those under such threat will rise to 10,000,000
  • "All estimated mortality statistics or deaths are representative of much wider harm. Every 100,000 deaths would normally indicate several million cases of illness or disability (DALYs), or people displaced, injured or in need of emergency assistance."
  • More than 50 countries are acutely vulnerable to climate change today
  • Some 170 countries have high vulnerability to climate change in at least one area
  • Climate change causes around $150,000,000,000 in economic losses today
  • More than half of those losses take place in industrialized countries
The report's introduction is blunt:
Previous generations were not aware of the environmental impact of economic development and the resource constraints of our planet. We are. They did not have the technology and the know-how to pursue a different path to prosperity. We do. Our generation must seize this unique moment to build a better, more equitable and more sustainable world. If not, our generation will carry a conscience that will never be clear, from failing to act when we had the chance.
Without action, the next 20 years will see a dramatic worsening of the climate change problem and its impacts by every measure. The report ranks impacts in different categories for each of the world's countries. Impacts are deemed low, moderate, high, severe and acute.
Nearly every single country – 161 to 176 of the 184 countries assessed – registers high vulnerabilities to at least one climate change impact area (2010 to 2030). Most countries in the world are therefore facing climate insecurities of one kind or another, whether due to heat waves; wildfires, floods, and storms; economic losses in key sectors; ecosystem damage; or hunger, disease, and displacement. Climate stresses on the economy are the most widespread and include lost value in the agricultural sector, including forestry and fisheries, as well as impacts for natural resources like water and biodiversity. The next most-prevalent impacts are in losses to human habitat as a result of growing desertification and sea-level rise. In 2010, health impacts due to climate change are least dispersed, but they are set to expand, with some 55 countries attaining a vulnerability factor of Acute or Severe by 2030 (compared to just 34 countries similarly prone to extreme weather by that time). While most wealthy countries register a factor of High vulnerability in at least one impact area, only Spain and the United States have an overall vulnerability factor of High, which is similar to major emerging economies such as China, Indonesia, Iran, Philippines, and Thailand. [emphasis added]
Yet, like many analysts assessing climate change, the report is hopeful:
This report identifies just how inexpensive it is to limit the majority of the negative impacts of climate change seen today, from the effects of the most violent storms and floods, to epidemics, severe drought, desertification, and even rising seas. There are even existing programmes like those addressing the main health issues linked to these causes which can be readily expanded. Countless other signs of hope exist. Countries around the world are beginning to understand that expanding modes of production established in nineteenth century Europe will incur enormous social and economic costs. Shifting to a low-carbon economy, based on green technology and renewable energy, creates wealth, jobs and new opportunities for progress.
The report claims it includes over 50 "highly effective" and readily available measures to limit "virtually all harm" caused by climate change.

The US has higher vulnerability than almost all other industrialized countries, yet a significant faction of our political leadership wants to pretend there isn't a problem or that it's a hoax. Such a position is unprincipled and ignores our highest duty. The partisan paranoia would be funny if it weren't paralyzingly true.

“Article 3. Principles. 3. The Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures, taking into account that policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost-effective so as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost.” – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992
Scientific certainty is not necessary. We know enough. Solutions are possible. Will we act?

No comments:

Post a Comment