Climate Change

Researchers Say Climate Change Will Be Like COVID

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The global coronavirus pandemic is taking a higher toll on the world's poor and minority populations and climate change will be much more of the same according to researchers from the University of Chicago, University of California, Berkeley, and Rutgers.

The Climate Impact research group has just published a paper that says the death toll from extreme heat caused by climate change will be almost directly proportional to coronavirus deaths at their worst point.

Moreover, they say the consequences of climate change will rise or fall with inequality just like the virus has. People experiencing the exact same conditions will see different outcomes based on their wealth.

People in poor regions who benefit less from investment in air conditioning, protective infrastructure, and elder care will die from extreme heat at much higher rates, even compared to wealthier peers who experience similar hot temperatures.

The researchers from the Climate Impact Lab determined that the toll from future heat will be far worse than expected, with the global annual mortality rate at the end of this century rising by 73 deaths per 100,000 people solely from excess heat. That’s a death rate comparable to the 79 per 100,000 that New York State has seen from Covid-19 since January. “The mortality risks from climate change are about an order of magnitude larger than previously understood,” says Michael Greenstone, an economics professor at the University of Chicago and a co-director of the Climate Impact Lab. “I really think that shouldn’t be missed.”

The results emphasize the life-saving power of income growth that drives investment into climate adaptation. Economic development can reduce projected mortality from extreme heat at the century’s end by about 60%, according to the Climate Impact Lab, a finding that translates into the possibility of saving millions of lives.

I'd like to think we will do something about rising inequality before the end of the century, but ideally we wouldn't wait that long.

Retaking the White House and Senate from Trump and the GOP will be our first real chance to do something significant about both inequality and climate change for the first time since 2010.

Sometimes it escapes me but I am eventually reminded that Republicans have controlled all or at least part of the federal government for a decade. That's a decade of wasted time and opportunity to actually prepare for our own future.

What we do decades from now will be important, of course, but what we do in the next 90 days could make the work of future generations easier or far more difficult. Reelection for Trump, aside from what he'll do to our own domestic politics, could mean pushing the world past the point of no return on climate change if we're not there already.

Putting today's modern Republican party in power for even one term in office comes with enormous consequences that not enough people appreciate. But hopefully more people appreciate it now following a global pandemic that the GOP is ideologically incapable of properly responding to.

  • Draxiar

    The Republican party is not a party of conservative ideals they’re a party of business and fear.

  • muselet

    Now would be an excellent time for the world to act on climate change (twenty or thirty years ago would have been better).

    The effort has to be global and it has to be undertaken on a colossal scale; individual actions are simply insufficient.

    Will it be expensive? Sure, but not as expensive as extinction.

    Will it require lifestyle changes? Sure, but not as many or as negative as climate-change deniers would have us believe (again, the problem is too big for individual actions to cure).

    As a bonus, transitioning to a lower-carbon global economy could drive the sort of economic development that would save lives.

    It needs to happen, and soon.

    –alopecia