By the end of this century, tens of millions of people could die each year worldwide as a result of temperatures rising due to climate change, a new study shows.
The number could potentially match the global death rate for all infectious diseases combined, researchers say.
The study shows that as greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere continue to escalate, rising temperatures in the decades ahead could raise annual global mortality rates by 73 deaths per 100,000 people.
“We are studying the risk of death faced by our own children. Today’s 10-year-old fifth-grader will turn 65 in 2075, facing mortality risks from climate change every year of their retirement.”
In comparison, the current death rate for all infectious diseases—including malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS—plus diseases that ticks, mosquitoes, and parasites transmit—is about 74 deaths per 100,000 people globally.
We can no longer consider the mortal threat of climate change an abstraction waiting far in the future, warns Solomon Hsiang, assistant professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
“The global cost to human health from warming is likely to be profound,” Hsiang says. “We are studying the risk of death faced by our own children. Today’s 10-year-old fifth-grader will turn 65 in 2075, facing mortality risks from climate change every year of their retirement.
“Failing to address climate change is not that different from driving your kids around without a seat belt: you are putting their lives at risk.”
The burden of a hotter planet will fall heavily on the world’s poorest people, says coauthor Michael Greenstone, an economist at the University of Chicago.
“Our data indicate that with the continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions, the temperature effects of climate change are projected to be five times deadlier than recent US flu seasons. In poor, hot countries, the heat may be even more threatening than cancer and heart disease are today.”
The National Bureau of Economic Research published the study as a working paper. Additional coauthors are from Rutgers University, the Rhodium Group, the University of Chicago, and UC Berkeley.
Source: UC Berkeley