Climate Change

Meeting Paris climate goals can save lives. Here's proof

Paris Agreement, which aims to curbing emissions well below 2°C, can prevent 110 to 2,720 annual heat-related deaths in 15 US cities

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 10 June 2019

Restricting global greenhouse gas emissions to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — as recommended in the Paris Agreement — can help save thousands of lives in the United States during extreme heat-events, according to a study

The Paris Agreement, signed by almost 200 nations in 2015, aims at limiting warming to 1.5°C by keeping global average temperature to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.  

Adhering to the Agreement can help prevent 110 to 2,720 annual heat-related deaths in 15 major US cities, according to the University of Bristol.

“We are no longer counting the impact of climate in change in terms of degrees of global warming, but rather in terms of number of lives lost,” co-lead author Dann Mitchell, a professor at the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute, said in a statement.

According to the Emissions Gap Report 2018, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions show no sign of peaking. It reached a record high 53.5 gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide in 2017.  

To limit global warming between 2°C and 1.5°C, the GHG emissions in 2030 need to be approximately 25 per cent and 55 per cent lower than in 2017, it added.

In June, 2017, President Donald Trump withdrew US from the Paris Agreement, but the withdrawal is not effective until 2020. Moreover, states including New York and California are still committed to achieving the US climate goal within the agreement.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, thus emphasises the need to strengthen national climate actions in 2020, to achieve substantial benefits to public health in the US.

“Our study brings together a wide range of physical and social complexities to show just how human lives could be impacted if we do not cut carbon emissions. Considering the US citizens that will be adversely affected by increasing global temperatures, we strongly encourage them to hold their politicians to account,” Mitchell noted.

For the study, the team estimated changes in the number of heat-related deaths for 15 major US cities — Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, DC — by combining observed temperature and mortality data with climate projections of different warmer worlds.

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