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Big Oil Knew Climate Change Could Be Catastrophic. Study Shows Heat Could Become Deadlier Than Infectious Diseases

Big Oil Knew Climate Change Could Be ‘Catastrophic.’ Study Shows Heat Could Become Deadlier Than Infectious Diseases

More than a half century ago, the oil industry's top lobbyist warned his peers of the potentially “catastrophic consequences” of burning fossil fuels, consequences that are already starting to unfold as historic heat scorches Siberia and bakes the Middle East this summer. Extreme heat is among the deadliest consequences of global warming, and a new study tallies just how deadly it could become if climate pollution continues unabated.

Rising temperatures will rank among the world’s most severe public health threats, on par with or even eclipsing infectious diseases, by century’s end unless the world rapidly slashes greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s according to a study published August 3 in the National Bureau of Economic Research by scientists with the Climate Impact Lab, a collaboration that analyzes the “real-world costs of climate change.”

“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 U.S. flu seasons. In poor hot countries, the heat may be even more threatening than cancer and heart disease are today,” Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago and a study co-author, said in a summary of the research.

The research team projects that, under a high emissions scenario, the worldwide mortality rate stemming from global warming will reach 73 deaths per 100,000 people in 2100. That level is roughly equal to the current combined death rate for all infectious diseases — including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and diseases transmitted by ticks, mosquitos, and parasites (approximately 74 deaths per 100,000 globally).

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