Warming “kills 315,000 annually”

Climate change kills about 315,000 people a year through hunger, illness and weather disasters, and the annual death toll is expected to rise to 500,000 by 2030, Reuters reported, quoting a study commissioned by the Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF). “Climate change is the greatest emerging humanitarian challenge of our time,” said Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general, who now heads the GHF.

The study estimates that climate change seriously affects 325 million people every year, a figure that will more than double in 20 years to 10% of the global population (now about 6.7 billion). Related economic losses amount to more than US$125 billion annually — more than the flow of aid from rich to poor nations. Those losses, the report said, are expected to rise to US$340 billion each year by 2030.

Annan urged governments that will be meeting in Copenhagen in December to agree on an effective, fair and binding global climate pact. “Copenhagen needs to be the most ambitious international agreement ever negotiated,” he wrote in an introduction to the report. “The alternative is mass starvation, mass migration and mass sickness.”

The report calls for particular focus on the 500 million people it identifies as extremely vulnerable because they live in poor countries most prone to droughts, floods, storms, sea-level rise and expanding deserts. The regions most at risk are Africa (home to 15 of the 20 most vulnerable countries), south Asia and small-island developing states.

To avoid the worst outcomes, efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change must be scaled up 100 times in developing countries, the report says. Pledged international funds amount to only US$400 million, compared with an average estimated cost of US$32 billion annually.

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