How Many People Die from Carbon Burning and Climate Change Each Year?

How many people die from Carbon Burning and Climate Change each year?


This Fact Sheet summarizes estimations of how many people die from (A) Carbon Burning and (B) Climate Change each year.

By way of introduction, we can ask the question: how many Australians die each year from the effects of pollutants from vehicles, coal burning for electricity and other carbon burning? Answer: about 2,200, 4,600 and 2,800, respectively. At a "value of a statistical life" (VOSL) of $7.6 million per person  ($73 billion pa for Australian carbon burning-related deaths) and $9 billion pa in fossil fuel subsidies, the minimum Carbon Price to cover carbon burning-derived deaths and carbon burning subsidies is $554 per tonne of carbon as compared to the best political offer yet of $20 per tonne of carbon (for this updated assessment see “2011. Australian carbon burninng-related  deaths and carbon burning subsidies => Carbon Price of $554 per tonne carbon” c/- Yarra Valley Climate Action Group: ).


(A) Annual Carbon Burning Deaths


1. Air pollution deaths. In the US, poor air quality is estimated to cause tens of thousands of deaths and cost more than $100 billion annually. Globally, air pollution contributes to the deaths of more than 800,000 people per year, most in the developing world (see: )..

As of 2015, presently over 7 million people die avoidably (prematurely) each year due to climate change or the effects carbon burning pollutants. Thus UN Population Division data (UN Population Division: )  enable one to calculate that 17 million  people die avoidably (prematurely) each year (half of them children) due to poverty in the Developing World (minus China) (see Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, that includes a history of every country from Neolithic times and is now available for free perusal on the web:  ) .  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 7 million people die from the effects of  pollution each year (World Health Organization (WHO), “7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution”: ).

The DARA 2012 Report commissioned by 20 countries states: “This report estimates that climate change causes 400,000 deaths on average each year today, mainly due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries. Our present carbon-intensive energy system and related activities cause an estimates 4.5 million deaths each year linked to air pollution , hazardous occupations and cancer… Continuing today’s patterns of carbon-intensive energy use is estimated, together with climate change, to cause 5 million deaths per year by 2030, close to 700,000 of which would be due to climate change. This implies that a combined climate-carbon crisis is estimated to claim 100 million lives between now and the end of the next decade. A significant share of the global population would be directly affected by inaction on climate change” (DARA, “Climate Vulnerability Monitor. A guide to the cold calculus of a hot planet”, 2012, Executive Summary pp2-3: and DARA report quoted by Reuters, ”100 mln to die by 2030 if world fails to act on climate”, 28 September 2012: )].

Australia’s world -leading coal exports on combustion generate pollutants that eventually kill 75,000 people every year. About 10,000 Australians die each year from carbon fuel burning (for details see “Stop air pollution deaths”: ).

Carbon Terrorism kills the  7 million people each year who die from the effects of pollutants from the burning of carbon fuels such as fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) and biomass (wood and dung).  State-permitted Carbon Terrorism is a major variant of state-sanctioned Corporate Terrorism, Climate Terrorism, State Terrorism, State Crime and Non-state Terrorism (see “Stop state terrorism” : and "State crime and non-state terrorism":   and “Carbon Terrorism”: ).

Presently neoliberal, corporatist Climate Terrorism “only” kills the 400,000 people who die each year due to man-made  climate change  but by way of comparison, a post-9-11 an average of only 4 Americans die each year from political terrorism in the US -  for details see the “Climate Terrorism” website ("Climate terrorism”: . ) , an alphabetically-organized compendium of expert views  on the worsening   Climate  Genocide through state-complicit  Climate Terrorism  that is predicted to kill 10 billion people this century if man-made climate change is not requisitely  addressed (see “Climate Genocide”: ).


2. International comparisons of fossil fuel-based power pollution deaths. “Annual coal-based electricity deaths” [“total annual fossil fuel-based electricity deaths”] from pollutants (carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, volatile organics and heavy metals, notably mercury)  are 170,000 [283,000] (the World), 11,000 [13,000] (India), 47,000 [47,500] (China), 49,000 [72,000] (the US), 3,400 [6,900] (the UK), 4,900 [5,400] (Australia) and 2,700 [3,800](Canada) as compared to 110 [360] (heavily renewable-based New Zealand) (see: ; ).


3. Fossil fuel-powered transport deaths. While alternative, high-safety,  high-efficiency and 100% renewable energy public transport is feasible (see Martin Mahy, “Hydrogen Minibuses”, in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007; pp250-256), land transport is dominated by fossil fuel-powered vehicles. According to WHO “An estimated 1.26 million men, women and children were killed around the world in the first year of the 21st century - not by wars or diseases or natural disasters, but by and in traffic accidents” (see: ) .

It can be proportionately estimated from New Zealand data that about 2,000 Australians die from the effects of vehicle exhaust pollutants each year - in addition to the 5,000 who die from fossil fuel burning  pollutants from power stations - and that 3,000 further Australians die  from other fossil fuel combustion (e.g. domestic and industrial burning for heat) (see: )..


4. Smoking-related deaths. Smoking of tobacco cigarettes is a highly significant carbon burning component that is associated with more than 5 million deaths worldwide each year (440,000 in the US alone) (see: ).


(B) Annual Climate Change-related Deaths


Avoidable mortality (excess mortality, avoidable death, excess death) in a global context can be defined as the difference between actual deaths in a country and deaths expected for a peaceful, decently governed country with the same demographics. Annual avoidable mortality (essentially from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease) by this conservative, macro-scale definition is essentially zero in advanced countries but totals 14.8 million for the non-European World out of the world total of 16.0 million (2003 data; “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: ). 


1. Climate change already impacts global avoidable mortality. Climate change is already significantly contributing to the 16 million annual avoidable deaths world-wide according to UN and FAO. Thus on 12 December 2007, Bali, expressing their “deepest concern”, three Rome-based UN Agencies – FAO, the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development – warned that climate change is a major challenge to world food security and will increase hunger and malnutrition unless immediate action is taken. (see: )


2. Malnourished face immediate climate change risks. There are about 0.9 billion malnourished people in the world who face immediate risks from climate change impacts on agricultural production (see World Food Program: ).  


3.  Climate change deaths and refugees from sea level rise and storm surges. a third of Bangladesh's coastline could be flooded if the sea rises one meter in the next 50 years, creating an additional 20 million Bangladeshis displaced from their homes and farms; about 10 million people are already threatened by annual floods and storms damaging riverine and coastal islands (see: ). In  2008 alone Cyclone Nargis killed at least 130,000 in Myanmar and left over 1 million homeless (see: ). Mega-delta countries around the world are acutely threatened (see: ). NASA’s Dr James Hansen (2007): “As an example, let us say that ice sheet melting adds 1 centimetre to sea level for the decade 2005 to 2015, and that this doubles each decade until the West Antarctic ice sheet is largely depleted. This would yield a rise in sea level of more than 5 metres by 2095 … in my opinion, if the world warms by 2 °C to 3 °C, such massive sea level rise is inevitable, and a substantial fraction of the rise would occur within a century” (see: ).


4. Biofuel diversion and food price increases (compounded by global warming) threaten billions. UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser Professor John Beddington FRS has said that the biofuel diversion impact on global food prices “threatens billions” and that substitution of rain forests for biofuel production is “insane” (see:,25197,23336840-11949,00.html  ). The legislatively mandated US, UK and EU diversion of food for fuel has contributed to 2-3 fold increases in grain prices in the last year (together with global warming effects, globalization, oil prices, grain diversion for meat,  and speculation) and crop-derived biofuel is actually an enormous net CO2 polluter (see: ). There are already 67 million refugees and internally displaced persons who need to be fed (see: ).


5. Over 6 billion may perish this century due to global warming (Dr James Lovelock FRS).  Top UK and World climate scientist Dr James Lovelock FRS has warned that climate change may already be irreversible and that over 6 billion may perish this century due to unaddressed climate change (see: ; ).


CONTACT: Yarra Valley Climate Action Group (YVCAG): ; Climate Emergency Network (CEN): .