Scientists have given a terrifying prediction about the future of humanity on this planet.
According to experts in Canada, one billion people – one eighth of the current global population – will die due to climate change if global warming reaches or exceeds 3.6°F (2°C) by 2100.
Most of those who die will be poorer humans living in the developing world, they say, while the ones contributing to mass fatalities will likely be the top execs at multi-billion dollar oil and gas companies.
Deaths will be triggered by various catastrophes including flooding due to melted ice, wildfires, disease, severe weather events such as drought, and much more.
The study authors are calling on governments and policymakers to urgently prohibit the use of fossil fuels such as coal and gas because they release huge quantities of planet-warming gases into the air.
The researchers want to see a complete replacement of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas). Pictured, emissions at a coal-burning power station
The researchers say deaths of 1 billion is ‘comparable with involuntary or negligent manslaughter’.
Leader of the study, Dr Joshua M. Pearce at University of Western Ontario, Canada, said such mass death is ‘clearly unacceptable’.
‘It’s pretty scary really, especially for our children,’ he said.
‘Global warming is a matter of life or death for a billion people.
‘Almost everyone agrees that every human life is valuable, independent of age, cultural or racial background, gender or financial resources.
‘Therefore, the energy transition will have to change much, much faster, starting now.’
Greenhouse gases including CO2 and methane are released when fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas are burned to powers cars, planes, homes and factories.
When the these gases enter the atmosphere, they trap heat and contribute to the warming of the climate.
This is already melting ice in the polar regions, and this meltwater is entering the oceans, gradually causing a rise in sea levels and severe flooding.
Scientists think the people most at risk of death due to rising sea levels are those living in coastal regions, which will be the first to go permanently underwater.
But global warming will kill in other ways, according to Dr Pearce, such as the effects of heatwaves.
We’ve already seen hotter average temperatures globally, including the hottest month ever recorded and the hottest ever recorded temperature in the oceans.
UNICEF recently introduced the Children’s Climate Risk Index, which ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as cyclones and heatwaves
If global warming reaches or exceeds 2°C by 2100, it is likely that mainly richer humans will be responsible for the death of roughly one billion mainly poorer humans over the next century (concept image)
‘Climate change causes human deaths can be divided into direct, intermediate, indirect, and their interactions,’ Dr Pearce told MailOnline.
‘Direct mortal effects of climate change include heat waves, which have already caused thousands of human deaths by a combination of heat and humidity, such that the human body is physically unable to cool itself with perspiration.
‘Intermediate causes of death involve crop failures, droughts, flooding, extreme weather, wildfires, and rising seas.
‘Crop failures in particular can make global hunger and starvation worse.’
Pearce teamed up with Richard Parncutt from the University of Graz in Austria for the new study, published in the journal Energies.
To reach their prediction, the duo conducted a ‘major review’ of more than 180 previously published articles from scientific literature.
They compared the different approaches to estimating future human death tolls from climate change, at any scale or location.
According to the results, a measure known as the ‘1,000-ton rule’ is a pretty accurate way to predict human mortality due to climate.
Potential causes of death due to climate change include crop failures, droughts, flooding, extreme weather, wildfires. Pictured, a bushfire smouldering in the Australian outback
The 1,000-ton rule states that one future premature death is caused every time approximately 1,000 tons of fossil carbon are burned.
However, the rule is ‘order of magnitude best estimate’ and the reality could be more or less one person per 1,000 tons, according to Dr Pearce.
‘The number of caused deaths will likely lie between a tenth of a person and 10 people per 1,000 tons,’ he said.
The academic thinks ‘mainly richer humans’ will be responsible for the death of one billion mainly poorer humans over the next century, although he was unable to say what proportion of the one billion will be poor.
‘Most people that will die from climate change are poor people living in the developing world,’ he told MailOnline.
‘Those earning the average income in a developed country will be able to buy their survival – e.g., by moving, out bidding the poor for food, being able to pay for air conditioning.’
The new study proposes immediate action to bring about dramatic decreases to carbon emissions so that the dire projections do not come to fruition.
These include a complete replacement of fossil fuels that belch out carbon at a high rate – namely coal, oil and natural gas – with renewable energy sources like hydropower, wind, geothermal and solar.
Deaths will be triggered by various catastrophes such as flooding due to melted ice, wildfires, disease, severe weather events such as drought, and much more. Pictured, flooding in Austria
Aerial view of rescuers using a boat to evacuate people from a flood-hit area after torrential rains on June 22, 2022 in Yingde, Qingyuan City, Guangdong Province of China. Such scenes will become more common and even more severe if we do not curb carbon emissions, according to scientists
He also wants to see the development of technologies that capture and store CO2, along the lines of what the UK government is currently considering.
Dr Pearce believes that phasing out fossil fuels in favour of renewables is plausible even for countries such as India that rely on them so heavily.
‘Even if we just look at it economically, India, for example is able to produce solar electricity less expensively than any other source in history,’ he told MailOnline.
‘Transitioning to renewable energy should be viewed as an investment.
‘By investing money now in solar and other renewable energy India as well as really all countries they will see an economic return over time, plus that means reduced pollution and all of the many issues with climate change.’
Fossil fuels versus renewable energy sources
Solar – light and heat from the sun.
Wind – through wind turbines to turn electric generators
Hydro – captured from falling or fast-running water
Tidal – energy from the rise and fall of sea levels
Geothermal – energy generated and stored in the Earth
Biomass – organic material burnt to release stored energy from the sun
Although nuclear energy is considered clean energy its inclusion in the renewable energy list is a subject of major debate.
Nuclear energy itself is a renewable energy source. But the material used in nuclear power plants – uranium – is a non-renewable.
Renewables contrast with the more harmful fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas.
They are considered fossil fuels because they were formed from the fossilised, buried remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago.
Because of their origins, fossil fuels have a high carbon content, but when they are burned, they release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the air.
Source: EDF Energy /Stanford University