A carbon calculation: how many deaths do emissions cause?

In his article, Bressler incorporated recent public health research that estimates the number of excessive deaths attributable to rising ...


In his article, Bressler incorporated recent public health research that estimates the number of excessive deaths attributable to rising temperatures in the latest version of the DICE model. The resulting extended model produced a surprisingly high figure for the social cost of carbon: $ 258 per metric tonne.

He coined a term for the relationship between increased emissions and excess heat-related deaths: the “cost of carbon mortality”.

Heat waves, made more frequent and more powerful by climate change, have been linked to illness and death, with profound effects in less wealthy countries. Recent outsized temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and Canada have already been linked to hundreds of deaths.

Others have tried to quantify the mortality associated with climate change and the additional costs it entails, in particular the Climate impact laboratory at the University of Chicago. Maureen Cropper, a senior researcher at Resources for the Future, a non-partisan environmental research organization in Washington, suggested that Mr Bressler’s estimate of $ 258 appeared to be too high, in part because of the way the document examines the way people around the world perceive the value of their own lives. She added that “while one may disagree with some of the author’s assumptions, it is important that researchers continue their efforts.”

Mr Bressler acknowledged that there were areas of uncertainty in the document, including those built into some public health research looking at excessive heat deaths. It also relied solely on heat-related deaths without adding other causes of climate-related deaths, including flooding, crop failures and civil unrest. The result is that the actual number of deaths could be lower or higher. “Based on the current literature,” he said, “this is the best estimate. “

Richard Revesz, a professor at New York University School of Law, praised the new work, which expands the research he and others have conducted to view the social cost of carbon as the beginning of an understanding of the costs of climate change, not the total cost.

“This could well have a significant impact on climate change policies,” he said.

The new research also shows the stark difference between personal carbon footprints and the kind of change that can be achieved through government and company-wide actions. After calculating that 4,434 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere would result in one death this century, Mr Bressler said simply taking a coal-fired power plant offline and replacing it with a zero-emission alternative for just one year, would translate into a “904-life-saving mortality benefit” over the century. “It would have a lot more of an impact than a personal decision,” he said.

But he added that he did not favor one form of action over another.

“I’m just quantifying things,” he said, adding that at the end of the day, “you just have to reduce the carbon”.

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Newsrust - US Top News: A carbon calculation: how many deaths do emissions cause?
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