The economic and human costs of climate change are already here according to a new study; significantly contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people a year and costing upwards of $1.2 trillion a year in economic costs — that’s 1.6% of the annual global GDP.
Developing countries have so far been bearing the brunt of the damage, according to the research. The agricultural production systems there, when damaged by extreme weather, directly cause the deaths of the people depending on them; from malnutrition, poverty, and associated diseases.
Maybe surprising to some people, air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is itself contributing to the deaths of at the very least 4.5 million people a year, the report found.
The new study was titled “Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet” and was just published on Wednesday. The 331-page study was done by the DARA group, a non-governmental organisation based in Europe, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum. More than 50 scientists, economists, and policy experts wrote it; and it was commissioned by more than 20 governments.
By the researchers’ estimate, by 2030, the “cost of climate change and air pollution combined will rise to 3.2% of global GDP, with the world’s least developed countries forecast to bear the brunt, suffering losses of up to 11% of their GDP.”
Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, said: “A 1C rise in temperature [temperatures have already risen by 0.7C globally since the end of the 19th century] is associated with 10% productivity loss in farming. For us, it means losing about 4m tonnes of food grain, amounting to about $2.5bn. That is about 2% of our GDP. Adding up the damages to property and other losses, we are faced with a total loss of about 3-4% of GDP. Without these losses, we could have easily secured much higher growth.”
Even though the damage has been the worst in developing countries so far, major economies will start to see large damage as the extremes of weather intensify: “droughts, floods and more severe storms – could wipe 2% of the GDP of the US by 2030, while similar effects could cost China $1.2tr by the same date.”
Despite the view taken by many governments that climate change is only a long-term issue, a rapidly growing number of researchers are of the opinion that many recent disasters and events are at least somewhat attributable to climate change. The increasingly rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice is the most obvious of these events — the sea ice melt reached a new record minimum this year, and could be gone by the decade’s end if melting continues at a similar rate. And in the US, the severe and ongoing droughts have substantially raised food prices, and the disrupted monsoon in India has led to widespread agricultural destruction.
Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s climate chief, last week said: “Climate change and weather extremes are not about a distant future…. Formerly one-off extreme weather episodes seem to be becoming the new normal.”
Michael Zammit Cutajar, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: “Climate change is not just a distant threat but a present danger – its economic impact is already with us.”
Source: The Guardian
Image Credits: Flood via Wikimedia Commons
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