A CO2 calculation: how many deaths cause emissions?

A CO2 calculation: how many deaths cause emissions?

What does our carbon footprint cost – not just in dollars, but in human lives?

It’s sobering high, perhaps high enough to change attitudes about how much we should be spending on fighting climate change, according to a report released on Thursday.

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What does our carbon footprint cost – not just in dollars, but in human lives?

It’s sobering high, perhaps high enough to change attitudes about how much we should be spending on fighting climate change, according to a report released on Thursday.

The new Per, published in the journal Nature Communications, draws on several areas of research to find out how many human lives will be lost to rising temperatures in the future if humanity continues to produce high greenhouse gas emissions – and how many lives it could be through Reduction of these emissions saved.

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Most deaths will occur in regions that tend to be hotter and poorer than the United States. These areas are typically less responsible for global emissions, but more affected by the resulting climate disasters.

R. Daniel Bressler, a PhD student at Columbia University, has calculated that about a quarter of the output of a coal-fired power plant, or about 1 million tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere beyond 2020 levels for just one year, will cause 226 deaths worldwide.

By comparison, lifetime emissions from a handful of Americans (3.5 to be precise) beyond 2020 levels will result in an additional heat-related death this century.

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Bressler also compared the effects of people in countries with a large carbon footprint with those in smaller ones. While the CO2 emissions of fewer than four Americans would kill one person, the same result would require the combined carbon emissions of 146.2 Nigerians. The global average that causes this single death is 12.8 people.

The new Per builds on the work of William Nordhaus, a Nobel Prize winner who pioneered the so-called “social cost of carbon” – an economic tool for measuring the climate-related damage to the planet caused by each additional tonne of carbon emissions. The concept has been a crucial part of the policy debates on the cost of fighting climate change, as it is used to calculate the cost-benefit analysis that is required when authorities propose environmental legislation. The higher the societal costs of CO2, the easier it is to justify the costs of the measure.

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The current version of the Nordhaus model – the “Dynamic Integrated Climate Economy” or DICE – puts the social costs of carbon at around 37 US dollars per ton. The Obama administration’s estimates are $ 50 per ton, but the Trump administration has reduced the estimate to just $ 1. The Biden government is working on its own social cost of carbon, which is expected early next year; a preliminary figure released in February roughly corresponded to the Obama administration.

In his Per, Bressler has incorporated recent public health research into the latest version of the DICE model, estimating the number of additional deaths due to rising temperatures. The resulting extended model yielded an amazingly high value for the societal cost of CO2: US $ 258 per ton.

He coined a term for the connection between increased emissions and excessive heat death: the “mortality cost of carbon”.

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Heat waves, made more frequent and stronger due to climate change, have been linked to illness and death, with profound effects in less affluent countries. The recent off-chart temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and Canada have been linked to hundreds of deaths.

Others have tried to compile numbers on climate change-related mortality and the additional costs associated with it, most notably the Climate Impact Lab at the University of Chicago. Maureen Cropper, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, a non-partisan environmental research organization in Washington, suggested that Bressler’s estimate of $ 258 seems too high, in part because of the way the person values ​​the value of people around the world World assesses its own life. She added, “While some of the author’s assumptions may be disagreed with, it is important for researchers to continue efforts.”

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Bressler acknowledged that there are areas of uncertainty surrounding the person, including those built into some public health research that looked at excessive heat deaths. He also relied solely on heat-related deaths, without adding other climate-related causes of death, including floods, crop failures and civil unrest. The result is that the actual number of deaths could be smaller or larger.

“Based on the current literature,” he said, “this is the best estimate.”