Global Warming is already causing loss of life and damage to the economy around the world: new report

From devastating floods in China and the Philippines to droughts in Africa, the same extreme weather patterns that have hit the United States have impacted locations around the world. This is the face of global warming. According to a new report, climate change has already contributed to 400,000 deaths per year and over $699 billion, 0.9 percent annually, in loss to gross domestic product (GDP). The report estimates even greater damage from air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels which is also driving global warming.

This is the finding of a new report – Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of a Hot Planet (2nd Edition) – written by more than 50 scientists, economists and policy experts, and commissioned by 20 governments. The report was conducted for the DARA group and the Climate Vulnerable Forum. The study calculates and compares the vulnerability of 184 countries in terms of environmental disasters, habitat change, health impact and industry stress.

The study found that 400,000 deaths per year from hunger and communicable diseases have been aggravated by climate change. And they found that an additional 4.5 million people are dying from the carbon-based economy, mainly due to air pollution. The economic costs of this air pollution are over $500 billion per year – causing an additional GDP loss of 0.7 percent.

And these consequences are predicted to grow significantly in the near-term.  According to the report:

“Continuing today’s patterns of carbon-intensive energy use is estimated, together with climate change, to cause 6 million deaths per year by 2030, close to 700,000 of which would be due to climate change. This implies that a combined climate-carbon crisis is estimated to claim 100 million lives between now and the end of the next decade.”

Climate Vulnerability Damage ~Regional breakout.PNG

This damage will come with staggering costs to the global economy – with a GDP loss of 3.2 percent by 2030 from the climate change and air pollution related damage. The damage will be more acute in the developing world, but no region of the world will be left unscathed (see figure).  In less than 20 years China will incur losses of over $1.2 trillion, the US economy will lose 2 percent of its GDP, and India will suffer a 5 percent loss in its GDP.

The tally of those numbers are obvious when you look at the extreme weather that is being felt around the world. As a new NRDC video pointed out, this extreme weather is what global warming looks like.

Here is a small sampling of events around the world that provide a glimpse of what global warming looks like and the kinds of events that underlie the findings of the new Climate Vulnerability Monitor. [The World Resources Institute has a good timeline on events around the world.]


In July, Beijing suffered a sustained and heavy downpour that was the heaviest rain in the city since records began in 1951. As a result, rivers overflowed their banks, the city’s drainage system was overwhelmed, houses were swept away, and cars were submerged. At least 77 people lost their life and thousands were displaced.  

In August, mass flooding in Manila, Philippines resulted in the city receiving about half of their average monthly rainfall during a 24 hour period. After the deluge, more than 60 percent of the city was under water, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced, 19 people were dead, and 3,000 homes were damaged.

This comes on top of recent extreme weather witnessed in other parts of the globe over the past couple of years. In late 2011, Thailand had its worst flooding in 50 years with losses estimated at US$45.7 billion. Over 2,000 people were killed and 20 million people were affected in the 2010 heavy rains and floods in Pakistan. And last year the “Horn of Africa” suffered from a severe drought which threatened 12 million people with food shortage.

This is yet another wake-up call that failing to deal with  global warming will have real and lasting impacts on local communities, economies, health and safety, and people around the world.


This post was co-written with Corinne Hanson of NRDC.

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