Climate change induced by human activity is likely to be responsible for the premature death of about one billion people over the next century, if global warming reaches two degrees Celsius, a study suggests.
The oil and gas industry is directly and indirectly responsible for over 40 per cent of carbon emissions — impacting the lives of billions of people, many living in the world’s most remote and low-resourced communities, the researchers said.
The study, published in the journal Energies, proposes aggressive energy policies that would enable immediate and substantive decreases to carbon emissions. It also recommends a heightened level of government, corporate and citizen action to accelerate the decarbonisation of the global economy, aiming to minimise the number of projected human deaths.
The researchers found the peer-reviewed literature on the human mortality costs of carbon emissions converged on the ”1,000-ton rule,” which is an estimate that one future premature death is caused every time approximately 1,000 tons of fossil carbon are burned.
”If you take the scientific consensus of the 1,000-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,” said Joshua Pearce, a professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
Pearce hopes by changing and challenging the language and metrics of global warming, more policymakers and industry leaders will better understand the hard truths about the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.
”As predictions of climate models become clearer, the harm we are doing to children and future generations can increasingly be attributed to our actions,” said Pearce.
When this direct correlation is recognised, greenhouse gas emissions liabilities can no longer be ignored, the researchers said.
The study found that to limit these enormous future liabilities and save many human lives, humanity needs to stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible by following a more aggressive approach to energy efficiency and renewable energy.
”To be clear, predicting the future accurately is hard. The 1,000-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 added.