In his essay, Mr. Bressler incorporated recent public health research into the latest version of the DICE model, estimating the number of additional deaths due to rising temperatures. The resulting expanded model yielded an amazingly high value for the societal cost of CO2: US $ 258 per tonne.
He coined a term to describe the relationship between increased emissions and deaths from excessive heat: the “death cost of carbon”.
Heat waves, made more frequent and stronger due to climate change, have been linked to illness and death, with profound effects in less affluent countries. The recent off-chart temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and Canada have been linked to hundreds of deaths.
Others have tried to compile statistics on mortality related to climate change and the additional costs associated with it, most notably the Climate Impact Lab at the University of Chicago. Maureen Cropper, a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, a non-partisan environmental research organization based in Washington, suggested that Mr. Bressler’s estimate of $ 258 seemed too high, in part because of the way the paper viewed people’s views around the world considered worth of one’s life. She added, “While some of the author’s assumptions may be disagreed with, it is important for researchers to continue efforts.”
Mr Bressler acknowledged that there were areas of uncertainty in the paper, including those built into some public health research investigating excessive heat deaths. He also relied solely on heat-related deaths, without adding other climate-related causes of death, including floods, crop failures and civil unrest. The result is that the actual number of deaths could be smaller or larger. “Based on the current literature,” he said, “this is the best estimate.”
Richard Revesz, professor at New York University School of Law, praised the new work that expands the research he and others have done to look at the social costs of carbon as the beginning of an understanding of the costs of climate change, not as the whole cost.
“It could very well have a significant impact on climate protection policy,” he said.
The new study also shows the stark difference between personal carbon footprint and the kind of change that can be achieved through government and business-level action. After Bressler calculated that 4,434 tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere would result in a death this century, Bressler said it was easy to take a coal-fired power plant off the grid and keep it for just a year through an emission-free alternative substitute. would result in a “mortality benefit from saving 904 lives” over the century. “That would be a lot more of an impact than a personal decision,” he said.
But he added that he did not prefer one form of action to another.
“I just quantify things,” he said, adding that in the end all you have to do is reduce your carbon footprint.