A new study finds that carbon emissions over a lifetime of just 3.5 Americans are enough to cause an additional heat-related death between 2020 and 2100.
peer reviewed paper, Published Thursday in Nature CommunicationsDaniel Pressler, a doctoral student at Columbia University. The Bressler study examines the emissions from individuals, coal-fired power plants, and more causing deaths worldwide due to rising temperatures.
Bressler’s paper also found that if we were to remove all emissions from a coal-fired power plant for just one year and “replace that with an emission-free alternative,” that could save up to 904 lives from heat-related deaths over the next 80 years.
“There are a huge number of lives that could be saved by reducing emissions, on both the small and large scales,” Pressler told USA TODAY. “I specify that in this paper.”
The study suggests that it would take the lifetime emissions of 146.2 Nigerians and 12.8 “normal world population” to produce the emissions needed to kill at least one person from the heat by the year 2100.
The paper only considers deaths from rising temperatures, not deaths from other factors affected by climate change, such as infectious diseases, dwindling food supplies and floods.
“I’m just counting heat-related deaths,” Pressler said. “This is basically just the net effect of having more hot days and fewer cold days.
“If you were to add those other effects, you would probably expect that number to go up even more. But it remains to be seen how much more it goes up.”
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Bressler’s findings are based on a model known as the Dynamic Integrated Climate Economy Model, or DICE. The widely used model, pioneered by Nobel laureate William Nordhaus, creates a “social cost of carbon” using economic and climate impacts.
Pressler told USA TODAY that his study adapted the model to the recent scientific literature and how “climate change is expected to affect society.”
Using the model, he explained, a scenario that leads to a global warming of 4 degrees by the end of the century would result in 83 million heat-excess deaths. However, if world leaders are able to reach full decarbonization by 2050, that could mean 9 million excess deaths by the end of the century – saving 74 million lives.
“What I have found is that the optimal climate policy now includes significant immediate emissions reductions and then complete decarbonization by 2050,” Pressler said.
Pressler noted that there is “uncertainty” about setting mortality projections, even though his work includes both higher and lower estimates.
President Joe Biden have pledged To halve US greenhouse gas pollution by 2030 and put Americans on a net-zero emissions path by 2050.
The White House’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52%, from 2005 levels, is nearly double the targets set by the Obama administration in 2015.