The humanitarian costs of climate change

The humanitarian costs of climate change

Calculating the cost of climate change-driven disasters

There is little doubt that climate change will produce more frequent and severe weather patterns. As such those communities who are susceptible to weather-related phenomena – such as drought, floods, cyclones and extreme heat and extreme cold events – will face ever-greater threats of ‘natural disasters’. Indeed, with natural disasters affecting on average more than 250,000,000 people per year in the past decade and with climate change set to increase the incidence of such events will the humanitarian community be able to cope?

This paper is a concerted study to ascertain what the financial cost of humanitarian operations would be in light of increasing climate change. It also explores the more complex humanitarian consequences of climate-change driven disasters – i.e. the socio-political consequences of droughts, floods and extreme weather – to garner an understanding of the potential impacts on the global community.

The authors’ findings/recommendations include:

  • the most conservative models indicate a severe increase in costs of disasters, even within the next twenty years. At a minimum, an increase of spending on climate-related disasters of USD 57 million is projected. The worst-case maximum yields a rise of over USD 2.7 billion
  • the socio-economic impacts of large disasters (initiated by climate change) are potentially catastrophic – destruction and loss of livelihoods could lead to frustration and mass civil unrest; this could impact on economies already at risk from damaged infrastructure facing long bouts of ‘lost production’; whilst the demographics of societies could undergo fundamental change as the vulnerable are unable to withstand such extremes of weather. In an increasingly interconnected world these ramifications are much more keenly felt
  • at present, national disaster response is left up to each state. In a global economy, this is clearly not acceptable. The creation of well-supported standby funding mechanisms would enable humanitarian agencies to respond more predictably and flexibly to future unknown needs
  • with appropriate planning, states can profoundly alter the environment within which individuals
    act. They can encourage and inform; provide the infrastructure of physical protection and response; and they can regulate to encourage the innovative use of insurance and partnership between the private sector and the state.
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