A report commissioned by the governments of more than 20 countries found that more than 100 million people will die as a result of climate change by 2030 if the world stays on its current path.
According to the second edition of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, climate change and fossil fuel use already causes nearly 4.5 million deaths each year, and could increase to about 6 million deaths per year by 2030. The report, released by DARA, an independent, Spanish-based non-profit, suggests that time is running out for the situation to be reversed.
"There is still a window of opportunity, fast closing, to scale back pollution and tame the rising heat. But the world economy is locked onto a different course: fossil fuel consumption is expected to continue its rapid growth in the coming decades," according to the report. Climate change also has economic effects: According to the report, the United States could lose more than 2 percent of its GDP as it fights crop-killing droughts and water shortages.
But third-world countries are likely to remain the worst hit, as they will be forced to use already limited resources to fight disease and drought. More than 90 percent of deaths caused by climate change are expected to be in third-world countries.
"Of all these losses, it is the world's poorest communities within lower and middle-income countries that are most exposed. Losses of income among these groups is already extreme," the report says. "The pressures that these combined stresses put on affected communities are immense."
The report also says more of the world's population could become vulnerable to natural disasters and other effects of climate change: 250 million people could be forced to deal with sea-level rise, 30 million will experience more extreme weather and flooding, and 5 million people will suffer desertification, the process by which fertile land becomes desert.
"The cold calculus of a hot planet is that millions of people already suffer from the failure of the world economy to embark on a low-carbon transition," they said. "Tackling climate change is already sensible in economic terms today. [Assessing the problem] will also minimize widespread illness and mortality that inaction causes."
Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.