Richard Parncutt - Estimating the long-term human cost of climate change

Event type: 
25 July 2019
2.00 - 3.00pm

Climate Change Research Centre, Seminar Room, Mathews Building 4th floor, UNSW, Sydney

Prf. Richard Parncutt
University of Graz, Austria
Climate Change Research Centre

It is clear that burning fossil fuels is causing future premature deaths, but the relationship has not been investigated quantitatively, due to the large uncertainties involved. Estimates are nevertheless possible. A valid order-of-magnitude estimate of future death tolls attributable to climate change lies midway between realistic best- and worst-case estimates on a logarithmic scale. The rate at which future people are being killed by current emissions may be comparable with the current global premature death rate due to poverty. If global warming causes this death rate to double for a period of a century, global warming will have killed roughly a billion people or 10% of future global population. This applies even if the global mean surface temperature increase is limited to 2°C, given the multiple and diverse negative consequences of this increase (e.g., relative to 1. 5°C) and their predicted independent and interactive effects on human mortality over long time periods. Since the 2°C limit corresponds to burning roughly a trillion tons of carbon (or equivalent), a future person dies prematurely every time roughly 1000 tons of fossil carbon (equivalent) are burned today. The ethical, psychological, social, medical, economic, legal, and political implications of this preliminary estimate are considered.



Brief Biography: Richard Parncutt holds a BSc with honours in physics and an interdisciplinary PhD (physics, psychology, music) from the University of New England, Armidale NSW. Since 1998, he has been Professor of Systematic Musicology at the University of Graz in Austria. Richard's main areas of research are the perception and cognition of musical structure, musical performance, and the origins of tonality and music. A recent research project addresses the future impact of climate change on human populations.