Saturday, 31 May 2014

How many deaths could result from failure to act on climate change?

A recent OECD study concludes that outdoor air pollution is killing more than 3.5 million people a year globally. The OECD estimates that people in its 34 Member countries would be willing to pay USD 1.7 trillion to avoid deaths caused by air pollution. Road transport is likely responsible for about half.

A 2012 report by DARA calculated that 5 million people were dying each year from climate change and carbon economies, mostly from indoor smoke and (outdoor) air pollution.

Back in 2012, a Reuters report calculated that this could add up to a total number of 100 million deaths over the coming two decades. This suggests, however, that failure to act on climate change will not cause even more deaths due to other causes.

Indeed, failure to act on climate change could result in many more deaths due to other causes, in particular food shortages. As temperatures rise, ever more extreme weather events can be expected, such as flooding, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, and subsequent crop loss, famine, disease, heat-stroke, etc.

So, while currently most deaths are caused by indoor smoke and outdoor air pollution, in case of a failure to act on climate change the number of deaths can be expected to rise most rapidly among people hit by famine, fresh water shortages, as well as wars over food, water, etc.

How high could figures rise? Below is an update of an image from the earlier post Arctic Methane Impact with a scale in both Celsius and Fahrenheit added on the right, illustrating the danger that temperature will rise to intolerable levels if little or no action is taken on climate change. The inset shows projected global number of annual climate-related deaths for these two scenarios, i.e. no action and little action, and also shows a third scenario of comprehensive and effective action that would instead bring temperature rise under control.

[ click on image to enlarge ]
For further details on a comprehensive and effective climate plan, see the ClimatePlan blog.


How many deaths could result from failure to act on climate change?
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