Saturday, May 30, 2009

Human Impact Report: Climate Change-The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis

On May 29 the Global Humanitarian Forum introduced a new report , "Human Impact Report: Climate Change-the Anatomy of a Silent Crisis" (available here in its entirety), highlighting not just the dangers climate change poses in the future, but the damage that is already happening as a result of this already rather advanced process. As the executive summary (which you can read here) notes, the study's findings are that
every year climate change leaves over 300,000 people dead, 325 million people seriously affected, and economic losses of US$125 billion. 4 billion people are vulnerable, and 500 million people are at extreme risk.
These already alarming figures may prove too conservative. Weather-related disasters alone cause significant economic losses. Over the past five years this toll has gone as high as $230 billion, with several years around a $100 billion and single year around $50 billion. Such disasters have increased in frequency and severity over the past 30 years in part due to climate change. Over and above these cost are impacts on health, water supply and other shocks not taken into account. Some would say that the worst years are not representative and they may not be. But scientists expect that years like these will be repeated more often in the near future.
Additionally, the situation may significantly worsen within a matter of decades.
Within the next 20 years, one in ten of the world’s present population could be directly and seriously affected.
Already today, hundreds of thousands of lives are lost every year due to climate change. This will rise to roughly half a million in 20 years.
This report-not at all unprecedented in its presentation of this data, reports on the subject having long noted effects in the world today-is a reminder that this is not some hypothetical future issue, but very much a problem in the here and now, and not a small or distant one, as the late Michael Crichton (whose reasoning on the issue was identical to that of a tobacco company exec arguing that medical science hasn't "proved" a link between smoking and cancer) and Bjorn Lomborg (that darling of D.C. think tanks) try to make it out to be in their dubious analyses-which, alas, reached a far larger audience than this report is ever likely to. Hoperfully, however, they will prove less influential when we look back at the big picture.

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