[CANCUN, MEXICO] Climate change could cause nearly one million deaths per year from 2030 onwards, according to a report released at the UN Climate Change conference (COP 16), in Mexico.
'Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010: The State of the Climate Crisis' — which also details 53 cost-effective ways to avoid these deaths — examined the individual vulnerabilities of 184 countries to the short-term impacts of climate change in four key areas: health, weather disasters, habitat loss and economic stress.
It found that climate change impacts are on the rise worldwide and that they affect mostly children and the poor.
The impacts will challenge development but they also present a major opportunity — since tackling them contributes to poverty eradication and improvement of living standards, says the report.
"But opportunities will wane as warming increases," the report — prepared by DARA, a humanitarian research organisation, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of leaders of the most vulnerable countries — warns.
The report also lists knowledge gaps and calls for an urgent investment into research to close them. These include quantifying the impacts of climate change on extreme weather and on marine fisheries. A lot of data on disaster events are also lacking — especially in small countries and small island developing states for which data gaps are so big that many were not included in the report.
"The most important thing that this report does is compile the data on a national level," said Kelly Rigg, executive director of the Global Campaign for Climate Action.
For example, countries identified as having the fastest growing weather disaster impact until 2030 are: Venezuela, Myanmar, Honduras, Micronesia, Haiti, Bangladesh, Grenada, Somalia, Samoa and Nicaragua.
The report also reviewed the performance of more than 50 different kinds of actions that could limit the negative effects of climate change.
Among these, it assessed 11 actions to avert weather disasters such as planting mangroves to prevent flooding and flood-proofing houses. Setting up local early warning systems to alert people to coming disasters was deemed as being cost-effective within a year and most relevant to low income countries where 90 per cent of deaths due to natural disasters occur.
Michael Zammit Cutajar, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is hopeful the adaptation index can be used to analyse how successful these responses are.
"It is the beginning of an inventory of possible responses — what has worked, and what has not worked so well," he said.
Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow in the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development and a member of the report's advisory panel, said the report can be used as a baseline to plan for adaptation.