Deadly forecast: rich get richer, poor suffer

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By: Cristen Hemingway Jaynes

A new study by Joshua Pearce of London’s Western University and Richard Parncutt of the University of Graz in Austria has found that, if global heating reaches or surpasses two degrees Celsius by the year 2100, there is a high probability that over the next century humans, mostly the wealthiest, will be responsible for the deaths of approximately one billion mostly poorer humans.

Many of the most powerful and profitable businesses on the planet are part of the oil and gas industry, which is both indirectly and directly responsible for over 40 percent of carbon emissions, which impact billions of lives in some of the world’s most remote communities that have the least resources, reported Western News.

The study advises a substantive and immediate lowering of carbon emissions, as well as accelerated action by governments, corporations and citizens to decarbonize the global economy, with the goal of minimizing the number of human fatalities.

“Such mass death is clearly unacceptable. It’s pretty scary really, especially for our children,” said Pearce, who is Western’s John M. Thompson chair in information technology and innovation and the lead author of the study, as Western News reported. “When climate scientists run their models and then report on them, everybody leans toward being conservative, because no one wants to sound like Doctor Doom. We’ve done that here too and it still doesn’t look good.”

The study, “Quantifying Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Human Deaths to Guide Energy Policy,” was published in the journal Energies.

For the study, the researchers reviewed more than 180 scientific articles and found that they intersected on what is called the “1,000-ton rule,” which estimates that one premature death will be caused each time about 1,000 tons of fossil fuels are burned.

“Energy numbers like megawatts mean something to energy engineers like me, but not to most people. Similarly, when climate scientists talk about parts per million of carbon dioxide, that doesn’t mean anything to most people. A few degrees of average temperature rise are not intuitive either. Body count, however, is something we all understand,” said Pearce said, as reported by Western News. “If you take the scientific consensus of the 1000-ton rule seriously, and run the numbers, anthropogenic global warming equates to a billion premature dead bodies over the next century. Obviously, we have to act. And we have to act fast.”

Pearce hopes that more industry leaders and policymakers will begin to face the consequences of humans’ reliance on fossil fuels when confronted with updated metrics and language surrounding global warming.

“As predictions of climate models become clearer, the harm we are doing to children and future generations can increasingly be attributed to our actions,” Pearce said.

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Once the cause and effect between greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting consequences to the environment and human health become clear, so do the liabilities.

The study said that, in order to mitigate climate change, energy policy should focus on the main areas of the total replacement of oil, natural gas and coal with zero carbon fuels like electricity and hydrogen derived from renewable sources like windsolar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower; improvements in energy efficiency and conservation; carbon taxes to replace carbon subsidies; and the development of carbon waste management technologies, as well as regenerative agriculture and natural carbon sequestration.

“To be clear, predicting the future accurately is hard. The 1000-ton rule is only an order of magnitude best estimate. The number of caused deaths will likely lie between a tenth of a person and 10 people per 1,000 tons. Regardless, the bottom line that we need to act fast is still crystal clear,” Pearce said, according to Western News. “Global warming is a matter of life or death for a billion people. Almost everyone agrees that every human life is valuable, independent of age, cultural or racial background, gender or financial resources. Therefore, the energy transition will have to change much, much faster, starting now.”

This article originally appeared in ecowatch.com

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