With the climate crises we’re already experiencing, it’s no secret that we need climate action immediately to prevent the loss of life due to climate disasters. Now, thanks to a recent study, we have a good idea of how many lives will be saved if we cease emitting carbon into our atmosphere at unnatural rates.
The study, conducted by Daniel Bressler, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, looks specifically at a metric called the social cost of carbon, which calculates future damages from carbon already emitted into our atmosphere. Bressler analyzed the most recent science on temperature-related deaths tied to climate change to calculate how much human life could be saved with various climate action scenarios.
Showing the numbers
Bressler’s calculations found that every 4,434 metric tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere in 2020 equates to one extra premature death by 2100. To put that in perspective, 4,434 metric tons are the average annual emissions of just 3.5 Americans. Based on those critical results, he found that taking active recommended steps to cut carbon emissions today would reduce premature deaths from about 83 million to nine million by 2100.
In addition to calculating potential loss of life, this study also re-evaluates the “cost of carbon,” or the social and economic price of climate change. Right now, the US federal government puts the cost of carbon at $51 per metric ton, but Bressler’s work puts this figure at $258 per metric ton, further emphasizing the economic necessity of climate action.
Figures like these can be alarming, but assessing the true human toll of climate change demonstrates the lifesaving potential of reducing carbon emissions and hopefully work to encourage governments to take more serious climate action for the health and wellbeing of their citizens.
Source study: Nature Communications – The mortality cost of carbon
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