According to The New York Times, a paper published in the journal Natural Communications shows that deaths related to our carbon footprint are “soberingly high.” 

The paper, written by R. Daniel Bressel, Ph.D. looks at research from different sectors to predict how many lives will be lost as temperatures continue to rise and more greenhouse gases are pushed into the atmosphere. On a more positive note, the paper also determines how many people could be saved if we act now and reduce our emissions. 

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Ironically, countries that emit fewer carbon emissions may have the highest rates of mortality. Regions with less wealth and higher temperatures will have the majority of the deaths. 

By increasing the world’s coal-fired power plant output by 25%, 226 people around the world will die. The lifetime emissions of 3.5 Americans will kill another individual. In contrast, it would take 146.2 Nigerians’ lifetime carbon emissions to kill a person. On average, 12.8 people’s emissions are enough to kill someone over this century. 

William Nordhaus, whose work this paper builds on, created the economic tool called the “social cost of carbon” which predicted the amount of damage inflicted on the world by “each extra ton of carbon emissions.” Norhaus’ concept has been instrumental in determining the cost-benefit relationship between action against carbon emissions and how much it would cost to take that action. 

Currently, based on his model, carbon is valued at $37 per metric ton. However, the Obama Administration valued carbon at $50 per metric ton. Unsurprisingly. The Trump Administration estimated the carbon cost at $1 per metric ton. Biden’s is expected to be similar to Obama’s estimation.

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Mr. Bresser’s paper “mortality cost of carbon” raises these numbers to $258 per metric ton. Heat waves, which are linked to illness and death, have contributed to several deaths, particularly in less-fortunate countries. 

It is important to note that Mr. Bressler only accounted for deaths from heatwaves. The real number of carbon-related deaths could be larger or smaller. However, Mr. Bressler claims that “Based on the current literature, this is the best estimate.”

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