State of climate crisis report launched in Cancun

The "Climate Vulnerability Monitor" reveals distinct vulnerabilities in 184 countries and all regions of the world to short-term impacts of climate change just as the slow search for an international deal to tackle longer-term global warming continues at the UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico (COP-16).

The Climate Vulnerability Monitor, backed by leading international authorities on climate change, categorizes countries across the world into low, moderate, high, severe, and acute vulnerability to its impact.

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 report’s barometer assesses each country according to estimated effects in the four key areas of health, weather disasters, human habitat loss and economic stresses on affected sectors and natural resources.

The Monitor points to a large-scale crisis with some impacts increasing by over 300% globally by 2030. In less than 20 years, almost all countries in the world — over 170 — will realize high vulnerability to at least one major climate impact as the planet heats up: "the fate of the vulnerable will be the fate of the world."

Today, the majority of impacts are still highly concentrated in more than 50 acutely vulnerable low-income countries, urgently needing assistance.

Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand said: "This report shows the extent of vulnerability to climate change impacts around the world, affecting almost all countries. Urgent action now is a crucial investment to avoid massive costs and suffering in future."

"The priority for assistance must be those countries that are not only vulnerable, but also least able to cope — those with low capacity to respond and high levels of poverty. Cancun can put the foundation in place by agreeing to a fair global climate fund that allocates sufficient resources to adaptation with the mechanisms to do so equitably and accountably." Coates said.

Close to 80% of the entire human toll of climate change exclusively concerns children in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia succumbing to malnutrition, diarrheal disease or malaria, discloses the report.

Communities most exposed and vulnerable are being completely overwhelmed by just small increases in extreme weather, leading to situations similar to this year’s floods in Pakistan.

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, founder of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, said: "The Maldives stands at the climate change frontline. So it has always been crystal clear to us what must be done. But what happens to the Maldives today will happen to others tomorrow. "

"The Monitor helps to bring that clarity of vision to the entire world. We aim to become carbon neutral as a country by 2020. Those who follow our lead and adopt renewable energy and green technologies will be the winners of the twenty-first century." Nasheed said.

Half of all economic losses fall on industrialized countries, with the United States worst hit by overall damage costs.

But climate change will seriously worsen global inequalities.

Smaller total economic losses mask seriously greater relative costs elsewhere: more than 4% of GDP on average for the South Pacific region. Where poverty is most extreme, especially Africa, so is the degree of economic losses. And over 99% of all fatalities occur in developing countries.

"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," said DARA Director General Ross Mountain, who previously headed large UN field operations, including for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq.