Climate Deaths Double in 2010

Climate-related disasters killed 21,000 people in the first nine months of this year, more than double the number in 2009, the humanitarian organization Oxfam reported on Monday.

Timed to coincide with the start of international talks tackling climate change in Cancun, Mexico, the report cited floods in Pakistan, fires and heat waves in Russia and sea level rise in the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu as examples of the deadly consequences of climate change.

The new round of U.N. climate negotiations aims to agree on a narrow range of issues dividing rich and poor economies, specifically on funding, preservation of rainforests and preparations for a warmer world. The talks also will seek to formalize existing targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Last year’s climate negotiations in Copenhagen ended with no binding global agreement, and expectations for this year’s talks are low. U.S. lawmakers are unlikely to consider legislation creating a cap-and-trade system to curb climate-warming emissions.

Still, Oxfam put its report forward as evidence that quick action is needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“Countries should identify new ways to raise the billions of dollars needed, such as putting levies on unregulated international aviation and shipping emissions and agreeing on a Financial Transaction Tax on banks. The sooner the money is delivered, the cheaper it will be to tackle climate change,” Tim Gore, author of the report, said in a statement.

The events of 2010 are in line with expectations detailed in a 2007 report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which noted that more severe heat waves, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels were likely.

Oxfam said floods in Pakistan inundated about one-fifth of the country, killed 2,000 people and affected 20 million, spreading disease and destroying homes, crops, roads and schools, with estimated damages of $9.7 billion.

In Russia, Oxfam said, temperatures exceeded the long-term average by 14 degrees F (7.8 degrees C) in July and August, and the daily death rate in Moscow doubled to 700. Some 26,000 wildfires destroyed 26 percent of wheat crops, prompting a ban on exports.

Residents of low-lying Tuvalu, where seas are rising by about 0.2 inches (5 to 6 mm) annually, find it hard to grow staple crops as salt water intrudes on farm fields, Oxfam reported. As a result, they are more reliant on imported processed foods to survive, according to the report.

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