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Expert projects single factor will have caused millions of deaths by end of year: 'Nobody is counting it'

The effects of a warming world are getting harder and harder to ignore.

The effects of a warming world are getting harder and harder to ignore.

Photo Credit: iStock

By the end of 2024, climate change will have killed around 4 million people, according to one expert, who said the number he arrived at is an underestimate.

What happened?

In January 2024, Colin Carlson, a global change biologist and assistant professor at Georgetown University, published a commentary in the journal Nature Medicine estimating that by the end of 2024, the overheating of our planet will have caused 4 million deaths.

He based his estimate on a previous model created by another researcher, which had tallied deaths from diarrheal disease, malnutrition, malaria, cardiovascular disease, and flooding, in the year 2000. The model then used computer modeling to estimate the percentage of those deaths attributable to a warming world. 

What's more, Carlson told Grist that the number he came up with is an underestimate. For instance, it doesn't take into account deaths due to climate-driven surges of non-malarial mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue and West Nile virus, those caused by fungal spores that are expanding or shifting their ranges, and other deaths caused by a range of other dangers.

"Climate change is killing a lot of people, nobody is counting it, and nobody is moving in the direction of counting it," Carlson told Grist. "If it were anything but climate change, we would be treating it on very different terms."

Why is this estimate concerning?

The effects of a warming world are getting harder and harder to ignore. For instance, ongoing drought and heat waves in the Amazon have led to a record number of fires in the region, causing poor air quality and evacuations. Inhaling wildfire smoke can contribute to a variety of ailments including strokes, lung cancer, and early death.

Meteorologists are also predicting that 2024 will be a doozy when it comes to hurricanes, and some scientists have even suggested adding a "Category 6" to the current scale. Currently, about 10,000 people die each year due to hurricanes and tropical storms.

What's being done about our warming world?

Though things seem dire, a number of governments, scientists, and ordinary people are trying to help us put the brakes on rising global temperatures. For instance, large companies like Microsoft, Walmart, Apple, and Meta are now America's biggest corporate solar energy users. And HSBC, one of the world's biggest banks, will no longer finance oil and gas fields.

You can do your part by making sustainable upgrades to your home like installing a heat pump, which is more efficient and can cool or heat your home, or by upgrading to an induction stove. You can also make a tangible impact in your daily life by opting for public transit or riding your bike to get around.

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