The level of understanding about the human and social impact of climate change is steadily increasing. A staggering estimate from the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva is that climate change already leads to 300,000 fatalities per year, among over 300 million people seriously affected.
The report that contains these estimates, The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis, is going to be subjected to a full-on inside-out scrutiny from the climate sceptics and the authors had better have been extremely careful with their facts and methodology and be willing to be transparent about them. They are carefully expressed as estimates, surrounded by caveats and calls for more investment in research to improve the precision in the numbers.
Risky though it can be to bring forward estimates that are calculated on the basis of reasonable proportions of other estimated totals, which is approximately what the GHF researchers have done, it is important that estimates are made as concrete and specific as possible to illustrate issues as clearly as possible. We decided to do something similar at International Alert when in our report A Climate of Conflict we listed 46 countries in which we identified an increased risk of violent conflict through the interaction of the consequences of climate change and other factors.
This discussion will keep going for some time and it is likely to develop very quickly over the next couple of years. One of the best resources for keeping track of this new field where peace and conflict intersect with climate change and development is The New Security Beat blog, run by the Environmental Change and Security Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC. It is full of useful links and resources. Click here for a summary of a talk I gave there a few weeks back and an easy route into various publications and papers that go into the nuances and inter-connections of this topic.