Missed Emissions Goals Could Cost Thousands of Lives in NYC Alone, Scientists Find

The different between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming means thousands of lives in NYC.
••• Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/GettyImages

Sticking to the climate goals outlined by the Paris Agreement are as important as ever, according to a new study that shows how slowing the warming of our planet could save thousands of lives each year in the United States alone.

Leaders from nearly every country in the world committed to those goals in a monumental climate decision in 2016. Under the pledge, countries agreed to report back on the measures they were taking to reduce the effects of climate change, including drastically cutting back on emissions, banning harmful fuels and investing in renewable energy sources. The ultimate goal is to hold the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as opposed to the 2 degrees Celsius.

Half a Degree Doesn’t Seem Like That Much, Though!

Yeah, half a degree definitely isn’t the difference between sweater weather and short season. So the researchers wanted to take at whether or not that half-degree could really save lives. Guess what? It can.

The team looked at 15 cities across the United States and compared the heat-related deaths likely to occur if, at the end of this century, the planet has warmed by 2 or even 3 degrees Celsius.

They found that sticking to the climate goals and limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius has the potential to save as many as 2,716 heat-related deaths in New York City alone.

That’s because when it gets too hot, people die. Most at risk are young, old and already ill people, as well as those who don’t have air conditioning. Also highly susceptible are people who have to work outside in the harsh conditions, such as farmers or construction workers.

The researchers noted that as temperatures rise, cities and people become better equipped at dealing with the heat. But often, such measures are too little, too late, and are disproportionately applied to people who already have some level of wealth or access to begin with.

If nearly 3,000 people in New York City are slated to die from heat-related causes, the outcome could be much worse for people scattered across the globe in areas with little or no access to air conditioning, medical care, clean water or proper shelter from unrelenting heat.

So, Better Stick to that Paris Agreement, Right?

Right! Except ... the guy in charge of a pretty big country isn’t really interested. A whopping 195 other leaders have signed it, but in June of 2017, Trump declared that the United States would withdraw from the agreement, and thereby wouldn’t be implored to implement the large scale changes needed to slow the effects of climate change.

Thankfully, many members of Congress are challenging the administration on this issue. They understand that it’s going to take more than just banning plastic straws to save lives. Now is a great time to remind your representatives how important it is that they continue to fight the administration and help businesses throughout our country slow the planet’s ever-rising temperature.