Climate Change Already Has a Death Toll — Here Are the Exact Numbers

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Dec. 4 2020, Published 12:44 p.m. ET

climate change deaths
Source: Getty

Although the fatal effects of global warming and climate change on humankind seem like a seriously distant future issue, planet Earth's rising temperatures sadly already have a definitive death toll. That's right — climate change is already killing people off. And if we don't make some major environmental changes, the numbers will only continue increasing. 

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"Climate change-induced shocks are claiming lives, damaging health and disrupting livelihoods in all parts of the world right now. That means no continent or community remains untouched," said Ian Hamilton of University College London (UCL), who contributed to Lancet's Countdown on Health and Climate Change, as per EcoWatch. 

climate change death toll
Source: Getty
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The effects of climate change are fatal — and the numbers are only going up.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is an annual report that has been running since 2015, compiled by 100 experts from 35 institutions and universities such as the World Health Organization and University College London (UCL). Although CNN reported in 2019 that about 250,000 die annually from climate change-related causes, conservatively, the 2020 Lancet Report, which was released on Dec. 3, unfortunately shows the climate change death toll is continuously rising.

The latest report notes that in 2018, a total of 68,000 people in the U.S. died prematurely due to pollution, while approximately 19,000 people over 65 years of age died from heat-related deaths. And unfortunately, the numbers are still going up. Death tolls have also skyrocketed due to increased numbers of fatal bacteria in coastal waters such as Vibrio, according to CNBC, while an influx of wildfires have continued taking the lives of more and more people per year.

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Climate change-related deaths are taking place worldwide, regardless of where you live.

As per EcoWatch, a nation's wealth has absolutely no impact on climate change-related death tolls, and neither does a country's contribution (or lack thereof) to climate change. Even residents of nations that are doing everything they can to combat global warming are being vastly affected, which means a group effort is required by countries across the globe to survive the harrowing affects of the ongoing climate crisis.

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"A nation's wealth offers no protection against the health impacts of even a 1.2-degree Celsius global average temperature rise," said Hugh Montgomery, the co-chairman of Lancet Countdown and a UCL intensive care medicine professor, in an official statement given to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Flames, floods and famine do not respect national borders or bank accounts."

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Efforts such as the Paris Climate Agreement are more important than ever right now.

That being said, we're absolutely thrilled that Joe Biden has agreed to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, which is a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; however, we're seriously hoping that nations continue to do more to decrease their environmental impacts. But now — with the ongoing pandemic — is a more important time than ever to bring environmental efforts to fruition. 

“The only way you can meet the Paris agreement is by taking advantage of this moment … by combining the recovery from COVID-19 with the response to climate change,” said Dr. Nick Watts, co-author of the report, as per The Guardian

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