The impact of extended drought in Gansu, China on vegetables is clearly visible. Photo: Oxfam Hong Kong.
A new report from Oxfam tries to put a human face on the suffering that climate change will cause in the future, even if we muster the political will to hold global average temperature rise to 2°C, as well as what's already happening around the globe. Suffering the Science: Climate change, people and poverty goes into greater detail, but in short the report says that hunger, disaster and disease will be the "new normal":At 5°C Rise Billions Could Die
Even at 2°C temperature increases, some 660 million people could be forced into devastating conditions the report says; and if we continue to follow a business-as-usual trajectory and allow something on the order of 5°C temperature rise, human population levels could be reduced to just one billion people by the end of the century. (A view put forth on numerous occasions by James Lovelock, by the way.)
In short, without concerted action the progress made in the past 50 years in addressing global poverty and increasing human welfare in the world's poorest countries is likely to be lost, "irrecoverable in the foreseeable future."
Poor to Bear Brunt of Climate Change
Oxfam says that the greatest impact on humanity in the near future from climate change is likely to be hunger, with of course those areas already struggling to feed their people worst hit.
Echoing sentiments of doctors and scientists in diverse specialties, spread of tropical insect-borne diseases and water-borne illness is also likely to expand in the near term, bringing them into places where people have had no prior experience dealing with them.
Worker Productivity to Drop
This, coupled with rising temperatures, is likely to sap worker productivity, with quantifiable economic decreases occurring—places like Delhi could see 30% drops in productivity.
Increasing rates of natural disaster, dwindling water supply and drought, and climate-induced human migrations are all also seen as becoming more common.
Millions Hit in Next Decade Alone
By 2015 the report projects 375 million people will be hit with climate-related disasters, with some 200 million people being forced to migrate due to lack of food, loss of land and environmental degradation. Already 26 million people have been displaced by climate change globally.
Furthermore, cities where the water supply is dependent on nearby mountain ranges could face collapse.
Delve more into the human impact of climate change: Suffering the Science: Climate change, people, and poverty (PDF)
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