The lifestyle of three ordinary Americans produces enough carbon dioxide to kill one person. This is according to an analysis by researcher Daniel Bressler of Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
For every 4,434 tons of carbon dioxide pushed into the atmosphere in addition to the 2020 goals, one person will die prematurely from overheating. This concludes the study. Those 43,434 tons correspond to the current lifetime emissions of 3.5 Americans.
If we add another 4 million tons of carbon dioxide, which the average US coal plant produces annually, that adds another 904 lives. Moving forward: Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 would avoid 74 million deaths.
These numbers are not yet final and could be “an underestimate” according to the researcher, as they only count deaths from rising temperatures. Floods, storms, crop failure, and other impacts of global warming have not yet been considered.
“Many lives could be saved if we adopt a more aggressive climate policy,” Pressler says. “I am amazed at the number of deaths. There is still some uncertainty. The number may be lower, but it could also be much higher.”
His paper also compares the emissions of the populations of different countries. For the emissions of these 3.5 Americans, you need 25 Brazilians or 146 Nigerians.
Pressler says that while his paper focuses on emissions from individual activity, the focus should actually be on policies that affect businesses and governments. “I don’t think people should take the per-person mortality rate personally either. Our emissions are closely linked to the technology and culture of the place we live in.”
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