"Obviously, we have to act. And we have to act fast."

Terrible Toll

We know climate change is wreaking global havoc, from infrastructure destroyed by hurricanes to drought-fueled fires, but what will be the cost to human lives?

Now, a grim new estimate finds that approximately 1 billion people will die this century from various disasters driven by global warming, most of them poor and in the global south — a chilling data point as experts start to go beyond the mechanics behind climate change and move towards grappling with its dreadful toll.

This somber analysis was arrived at by researchers in Canada and Austria who analyzed 180 studies on climate change and mortality, as laid out in a new paper published in the journal Energies. From the analysis, they converged on a "1000-ton rule," which means for every 1,000 tons of fossil fuel burned, a person dies. Calculating with this rule in mind, the researchers concluded that roughly 1 billion people will die if the planet warms up to 2 degrees celsius or higher by 2100.

"If you take the scientific consensus of the 1,000-ton rule seriously, and run the numbers, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) equates to a billion premature dead bodies over the next century," said Western University researcher Joshua Pearce in a statement about the work. "Obviously, we have to act. And we have to act fast."

Averting Disaster

People will die from from a combination of disasters, according to the scientists.

"Storms and floods kill directly, but also indirectly, by causing epidemics," the paper reads. "Droughts kill when drinking water or food runs out. Rising seas kill when people are forced to leave their land and become migrants. In all these cases, poverty and AGW combine to cause human deaths."

So what's the world to do in the face of possible disaster?

The scientists argue in the paper that we should aggressively tackle energy policy to drastically curb carbon emissions.

"To save millions of lives it is ethically, morally, and logically acceptable to radically accelerate existing trends in energy efficiency, electrification, and the use of renewable energy, with the goal of powering global society without any fossil fuels at all," they conclude in the paper.

More on climate change: The Kids Who Sued Montana Over Climate Change Just Won

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