Climate-Related Deaths Doubled in 2010


Photo: DVIDSHUB, Flickr, CC BY-SA

In the first nine months of this year, more than 21,000 people perished around the world due to climate-related events, a new report from Oxfam finds. That's more than twice as many died in all of 2009. This news should hardly be surprising to anyone who follows international news -- the flooding in Pakistan, heat waves in Russia, and sea level rise in island nations like Tuvalu have notoriously caused widespread suffering. Oxfam has released the report, which can be read in full here (pdf), in time to coincide with the beginning of the climate talks in Cancun, Mexico. Despite expectations for real progress at the conference being at a sort of all-time climate talk low, the organization is nonetheless hoping to emphasize the fact that while Copenhagen may have failed, and US climate policy may seem hopelessly lackadaisical, global warming is still a problem. Shocker, I know.

And not only is it a problem, but it's the kind of problem that's impacting people's lives (most of them poor) right now. From Oxfam:

This year is on course to experience more extreme-weather events than the ten-year average of 770. It is one of the hottest years ever recorded with Pakistan logging 53.7°C - the highest ever in Asia.

Report author Tim Gore of Oxfam said: "This year has seen massive suffering and loss due to extreme weather disasters. This is likely to get worse as climate change tightens its grip."

2,000 people died in the extreme floods in Pakistan, and the report found that during the heatwave in Russia, the daily death rate in Moscow doubled -- and many more perished in wildfires and from heatstroke elsewhere in the nation. And those are just the two best-publicized examples of extreme weather.

All this is why Oxfam is calling for a Climate Fund to be established in Cancun, which would allocate funding to poorer nations hit by climate change, to help them prepare for climate-related disasters that will occur in the future, and to cope with rising sea levels and increased rainfall. The group is calling on governments to find new ways to raise funding to help the poor brace for climate change -- and reminding them that mitigation and early adaption will be far less expensive than ongoing disaster response in the future. At this point, we're not going to stop climate change altogether -- and we need to make sure that those most vulnerable have the tools to begin preparing for its effects.

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