Monday, May 30, 2011

Deaths from carbon burning

How Many People Die from Carbon Burning and Climate Change Each Year?

How many people die from Carbon Burning and Climate Change each year?

This Fact Sheet summarizes estimations of how many people die from (A) Carbon Burning and (B) Climate Change each year.

By way of introduction, we can ask the question: how many Australians die each year from the effects of pollutants from vehicles, coal burning for electricity and other carbon burning? Answer: about 2,200, 4,600 and 2,800, respectively. At a "value of a statistical life" (VOSL) of $7.6 million per person ($73 billion pa for Australian carbon burning-related deaths) and $9 billion pa in fossil fuel subsidies, the minimum Carbon Price to cover carbon burning-derived deaths and carbon burning subsidies is $554 per tonne of carbon as compared to the best political offer yet of $20 per tonne of carbon (for this updated assessment see “2011. Australian carbon burninng-related deaths and carbon burning subsidies => Carbon Price of $554 per tonne carbon” c/- Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: ).

(A) Annual Carbon Burning Deaths

1. Air pollution deaths. In the US, poor air quality is estimated to cause tens of thousands of deaths and cost more than $100 billion annually. Globally, air pollution contributes to the deaths of more than 800,000 people per year, most in the developing world (see: ).

2. International comparisons of fossil fuel-based power pollution deaths. “Annual coal-based electricity deaths” [“total annual fossil fuel-based electricity deaths”] from pollutants (carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, volatile organics and heavy metals, notably mercury) are 170,000 [283,000] (the World), 11,000 [13,000] (India), 47,000 [47,500] (China), 49,000 [72,000] (the US), 3,400 [6,900] (the UK), 4,900 [5,400] (Australia) and 2,700 [3,800](Canada) as compared to 110 [360] (heavily renewable-based New Zealand) (see: ; ).

3. Fossil fuel-powered transport deaths. While alternative, high-safety, high-efficiency and 100% renewable energy public transport is feasible (see Martin Mahy, “Hydrogen Minibuses”, in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007; pp250-256), land transport is dominated by fossil fuel-powered vehicles. According to WHO “An estimated 1.26 million men, women and children were killed around the world in the first year of the 21st century - not by wars or diseases or natural disasters, but by and in traffic accidents” (see: ) .

It can be proportionately estimated from New Zealand data that about 2,000 Australians die from the effects of vehicle exhaust pollutants each year - in addition to the 5,000 who die from fossil fuel burning pollutants from power stations - and that 3,000 further Australians die from other fossil fuel combustion (e.g. domestic and industrial burning for heat) (see: )..

4. Smoking-related deaths. Smoking of tobacco cigarettes is a highly significant carbon burning component that is associated with more than 5 million deaths worldwide each year (440,000 in the US alone) (see: ).

(B) Annual Climate Change-related Deaths

Avoidable mortality (excess mortality, avoidable death, excess death) in a global context can be defined as the difference between actual deaths in a country and deaths expected for a peaceful, decently governed country with the same demographics. Annual avoidable mortality (essentially from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease) by this conservative, macro-scale definition is essentially zero in advanced countries but totals 14.8 million for the non-European World out of the world total of 16.0 million (2003 data; “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: ).

1. Climate change already impacts global avoidable mortality. Climate change is already significantly contributing to the 16 million annual avoidable deaths world-wide according to UN and FAO. Thus on 12 December 2007, Bali, expressing their “deepest concern”, three Rome-based UN Agencies – FAO, the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development – warned that climate change is a major challenge to world food security and will increase hunger and malnutrition unless immediate action is taken. (see: )

2. Malnourished face immediate climate change risks. There are about 0.9 billion malnourished people in the world who face immediate risks from climate change impacts on agricultural production (see World Food Program: ).

3. Climate change deaths and refugees from sea level rise and storm surges. a third of Bangladesh's coastline could be flooded if the sea rises one meter in the next 50 years, creating an additional 20 million Bangladeshis displaced from their homes and farms; about 10 million people are already threatened by annual floods and storms damaging riverine and coastal islands (see: ). In 2008 alone Cyclone Nargis killed at least 130,000 in Myanmar and left over 1 million homeless (see: ). Mega-delta countries around the world are acutely threatened (see: ). NASA’s Dr James Hansen (2007): “As an example, let us say that ice sheet melting adds 1 centimetre to sea level for the decade 2005 to 2015, and that this doubles each decade until the West Antarctic ice sheet is largely depleted. This would yield a rise in sea level of more than 5 metres by 2095 … in my opinion, if the world warms by 2 °C to 3 °C, such massive sea level rise is inevitable, and a substantial fraction of the rise would occur within a century” (see: ).

4. Biofuel diversion and food price increases (compounded by global warming) threaten billions. UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser Professor John Beddington FRS has said that the biofuel diversion impact on global food prices “threatens billions” and that substitution of rain forests for biofuel production is “insane” (see:,25197,23336840-11949,00.html ). The legislatively mandated US, UK and EU diversion of food for fuel has contributed to 2-3 fold increases in grain prices in the last year (together with global warming effects, globalization, oil prices, grain diversion for meat, and speculation) and crop-derived biofuel is actually an enormous net CO2 polluter (see: ). There are already 67 million refugees and internally displaced persons who need to be fed (see: ).

5. Over 6 billion may perish this century due to global warming (Dr James Lovelock FRS). Top UK and World climate scientist Dr James Lovelock FRS has warned that climate change may already be irreversible and that over 6 billion may perish this century due to unaddressed climate change (see: ; ).

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