September 19, 2019 / 11:33 PM / a month ago

Disaster victims to double by 2050 in climate-battered world: aid group

UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Punishing droughts and more severe storms, floods and wildfires driven by climate change could contribute to twice as many people requiring international humanitarian assistance by mid-century, an aid group warned on Thursday.

As world leaders arrived in New York for a United Nations (U.N.) climate change summit, the dire consequences of failing to address the threat were underscored in a report by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

In the charity’s most pessimistic scenario - where little or no action is taken - damages caused by climate change will cost the world an added $6 billion a year from 2030.

“If the numbers continue to grow it will be something really overwhelming,” Francesco Rocca, the IFRC president, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It is (already) really difficult for us to reach all the people in need,” he said.

In a scenario where greenhouse gas emissions continue largely unabated, about 200 million people could require international aid by 2050 to survive disasters, some of which are driven by climate change, said the Geneva-based group.

The estimate only accounts for people living on an income of $10 or less a day, unable to recover from losses such as destroyed homes, the IFRC said.

Currently about 108 million require humanitarian assistance in the wake of disasters like hurricanes.

Global temperatures are likely to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) between 2030 and 2052 if global warming continues at its current pace, the U.N. said last year, a lower limit nearly 200 nations agreed to strive toward under the Paris Agreement.

A warming world intensifies natural calamities.

Scientists this summer concluded that climate change probably made June’s European heatwave, in which southern France experienced a national record 45.9C (114.6F), 4C hotter than it would otherwise have been.

The cost the IFRC calculated of feeding, housing and otherwise providing for people when they require humanitarian assistance because a disaster has hit a poverty-stricken area were “likely to be underestimates”, it said.

That is because it only accounts for the costs of international aid - $18 to $112 per person - and excludes the money governments would have to spend on their economies following disasters.

The toll inflicted by climate-related disaster could however be lessened by developing robust infrastructure and setting up early warning systems, the group said.

The U.N. Climate Action Summit is due to start on Sept. 23.

Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Tom Finn. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers climate change, humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate

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