poly: CO2 & death

From: Richard Schroeppel <rcs@cheltenham.cs.arizona.edu>
Date: Wed Jan 13 1999 - 15:27:55 PST

If food becomes a lot more expensive, some people are pushed
over the edge of poverty and die of starvation (or malnutrition,
or disentery, or homelessness, or a life of crime, etc.).

(MAYBE) Global warming might be a good thing for two reasons:

a) On average it lengthens growing seasons, and may increase rainfall.
b) Where CO2 is the limiting nutrient for plant growth, yield will
   increase roughly proportionally to CO2 concentration.

Conversely, a carbon tax which raised the price of gas 10c/gallon
makes food (and everything else tangible) a trifle more expensive
because delivery costs go up.

So I'm wondering: Has anyone done an estimate of how many deaths
are caused by, say, a 10c/lb increase in the price of rice or
potatoes? There are concretely identifiable victims in Indonesia
of the present economic crisis, but I'm wondering about the less
visible effects on the poor. Would it make sense to say that a 1c
increase kills 1/10 as many?

[It might be more meaningful to use Nick Szabo's rough measure,
that the Challenger blowing up cost us, in effect, the life's
work of 1000 people, and should be evaluated as costing 1007 lives.
But the first question seems more interesting.]

If we hide $5 antibiotics behind a $100 wall of medical permission,
does that save more lives by keeping them effective, than it costs
by making them unavailable when they would help?

Rich Schroeppel rcs@cs.arizona.edu
Received on Wed Jan 13 15:47:25 1999

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