climate change could kill over 500,000 people per year by 2030
We knew people would die as climate change got progressively worse. Now we have a realistic idea of just how many, and plenty of hints that these statistics are underestimated.
In what is perhaps one of the more insipid tweets on record about climate change and global warming, Steve Milloy, a Big Oil and Big Tobacco lobbyist who was part of the Trump transition team, insisted that climate change is not an existential threat because Venus is a greenhouse world and still just so happens to exist as a planet. Those of you who know literally anything about Venus can probably see the issue with that line of thought. While the planet is very much there and you can indeed land on its surface, you can’t exactly go for a stroll in pressures 90 times greater than at sea level and temperatures that can melt lead. Amazingly, Milloy did not delete this tweet, probably as he’s paid not to understand why it was so stupid.
But sadly, his attitude seems to accurately reflect the third wave of climate denial. Sure, they say, climate change is happening and the planet is getting warmer, but it’s not like Earth won’t be here as it happens, and besides, wasn’t that one study about the rate at which the oceans are warming wrong? And in a manner of speaking, they’re right. Even under the worst possible scenario for climate change, our planet will still be here. It’s us who are under threat from the loss of cropland, freshwater resources, economic and health consequences, extreme weather events, droughts, dangerous viruses thawing out of the permafrost, and geopolitical instability that can easily turn violent and almost certainly will.
how millions will die from global warming
With this in mind, a new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine tried to estimate an annual death toll which could be attributed to climate change. That number? At least 250,000 by 2030, and close to 530,000 by 2050, with hundreds of millions facing poverty and displacement due to shrinking resources and failing states. As the report takes great pains to note, those are very conservative, best case scenarios. It’s almost certain that the actual number of victims will be significantly larger, especially when we factor in the many downstream effects of all the aforementioned problems and the runaway pollution fueling global warming in the first place.
Most will perish from famine and disease, and a smaller, but still significant number, will find themselves caught up in the crossfire of civil wars and terrorist groups who see opportunities to hijack power in fragile states. Obviously, the biggest impact will be on the developing world while nations with modern medicine, air conditioners, and stable infrastructures won’t feel the brunt of climate change and have sophisticated tools to fight them, like artificial protein and robotic hydroponic farming. But continued disregard for how quickly the planet is warming can render certain regions uninhabitable, even in wealthy and middle income countries, leading to what’s known as internal displacement with all its healthcare-related and financial consequences.
the price of not tackling climate change
Hundreds of thousands of preventable climate-related deaths around the world every year won’t just be a moral and humanitarian crisis, they will also represent trillions in lost opportunities for greener technologies and economic development to alleviate poverty. The many gains made by existing programs which lifted hundreds of millions out of destitution will be reversed as the damage adds up, and the world will come out of this poorer, sicker, less habitable, and more unstable than it has been in a very long time. And again, it’s impossible to overstate how much of this will be entirely self-inflicted, and driven by the nihilism and solipsistic, sociopathic parasitism of older generations.
The cost of inaction which they seem ready to defend to the grave is already getting so bad that quite a few people are thinking that without geoengineering, we might not be able to avoid the problems we see coming right at us. We knew we’d have to deal with more toxic waste and garbage leaking into our environment, more disease, and have a harder time feeding ourselves. But now we also know that millions will die, a number of developing countries will fail, and the global migrant crisis will get worse and worse, both internationally and internally, adding more and more deaths to the total. Those will be the consequences of burying our heads in the sand and pretending that borders will protect us from forces to which borders don’t, and can’t, apply.