According to Oxfam 21,000 people died due to weather-related disasters in the first nine months of 2010 – more than twice the number (10,000) for the whole of 2009. Their information comes from reinsurance company Munich Re.
The number of extreme weather events was 725 to September, as against 850 for 2009. The number of extreme events is likely to exceed the ten-year average of 770, but not by a large margin. This year included some particularly serious ones, such as the floods in Pakistan and the heatwave in Russia.
The Pakistan floods affected more than 20 million people, submerging about a fifth of the country, claiming 2,000 lives and causing $9.7 billion in damage. Summer temperatures in Russia exceeded the long-term average by 7.8°C, doubling the daily death rate in Moscow to 700 and causing fires that destroyed 26 per cent of the country’s wheat crop. Russia banned grain exports as a result and soon after world grain prices increased, affecting poor people particularly.
Statistics relating to extreme weather events are tricky. The number of deaths obviously relates to the severity of the individual events and how many people were living in areas where the events occurred and hence vulnerable.
A different perspective is provided in a new report on vulnerability to climate impact put out by DARA (Development Assistance Research Associates – see also Wikipedia) and the Climate Vulnerable Forum.The latter was formed by the Bandos Island declaration in the Republic of the Maldives on November 10, 2009 and comprises Kiribati, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Rwanda, Tanzania and Vietnam and of course The Maldives.
They have devised a Climate Vulnerability Monitor with four climate impact areas – health, weather disasters, habitat loss and economic stress. The actual monitor shows Australia to be one of the more fortunate places on the planet in the 2030 time frame. Amongst the developed countries the USA is one of the worst affected. In terms of regions the most severely affected appear to be West and East Africa and South Asia. Amongst the larger developing countries China, South Africa and India have problems. The worst I can find is Myanmar, which registers acute+ on all four factors.
Using WHO figures the report finds that there are 330,000 climate related deaths each year, expected to increase to a million by 2030. Fully 99% of these are in developing countries. Also:
Today, the majority of impacts are still highly concentrated in more than 50 acutely vulnerable low-income countries, urgently needing assistance. 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.
“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.
President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives reckons what has to be done is very clear.
In terms of mitigation it is really dumb on the pert of developing countries to pollute their way to prosperity, he says. The Maldives is trying to set the pace with zero emissions as a 2020 target.
Secondly funds are required now for adaptation. delays are usual but frustrating and damaging.
Finally, this group, as with the ALBA countries, will want to make their own judgements at Cancun. Last month they held the Tarawa Climate Change Conference in Kiribati to try to bring together the various groupings which will be attending Cancún. As far as I can see ALBA wasn’t there.