New Brunswick, N.J. (Aug. 3, 2020) – Rutgers University–New Brunswick Professor Robert E. Kopp is available to discuss a major study released today on the global consequences of climate change on death rates.

The study by the Climate Impact Lab, which Kopp co-directs, finds that extreme temperatures will be one of the world’s greatest health threats by the end of the century. Under a scenario of continued high emissions, these temperatures are projected to cause an increase in global death rates that surpasses the current death rate for all infectious diseases (tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria, dengue, yellow fever, etc.) combined.

But not everyone is impacted equally. For some of today’s poorest counties, climate change’s impact on death rates could be on par with contemporary levels of mortality caused by cancer or heart disease. Protection like air conditioning pays off, but those adaptations come at a cost and are available predominantly in high-income areas. The study finds that each additional ton of carbon dioxide emitted today will cost ourselves and future generations about $37, including both the value of life-years lost and the cost of adaptation. Efforts to reduce emissions have substantial benefits, the research shows. Under a moderate emissions scenario, the projected mortality impacts from climate change fall by about 84 percent compared with a scenario of continued high emissions, and the additional damage caused by a ton of emissions falls by about half.

“Every ton of carbon dioxide we emit makes the climate a tiny bit warmer, for centuries to come,” said Kopp, director of the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences. “That tiny increase in warming increases causes a small increase in the likelihood of people dying from extreme heat, and in the money people spend to counteract it. This study measures these increases.”

“Our analysis shows that the average American imposes nearly $600 worth of unpaid-for death-related harm on the world each year through their carbon dioxide emissions – about four times the U.S. foreign aid budget,” Kopp said.

The research from the interdisciplinary Climate Impact Lab – “Valuing the Global Mortality Consequences of Climate Change Accounting for Adaptation Costs and Benefits” – was published today by the National Bureau of Economic Research. A summary of the research and detailed map of the findings are available on the Climate Impact Lab’s website.

The Climate Impact Lab is a collaboration of more than 20 researchers from the Global Policy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), Rhodium Group, Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Rutgers University and the London School of Economics. Together, they are linking state-of-the-art climate modeling, economic statistics and big data analytics to build the world’s most comprehensive body of research quantifying the impacts of climate change around the globe.

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