Drew Shindell head shot

Drew Shindell

The Human Costs of Climate Change

In 2018, Drew Shindell, Nicholas Distinguished Professor of Earth Science, published a paper that showed up to 153 million premature deaths linked to air pollution could be avoided this century if governments sped up their timetable for reducing fossil fuel emissions.

By projecting the number of preventable deaths—city by city—in 154 of the world’s largest urban areas, Shindell helped reframe global warming as a local health, sustainability and environmental justice issue, and helped drive home for policymakers and citizens alike the benefits of acting sooner rather than later to reduce carbon emissions and limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

Kolkata and Delhi, India, could each prevent about 4 million premature pollution-related deaths, the study showed. More than 140 other cities could each prevent between 100,000 and 1 million deaths.

The eye-opening projections, which Shindell calculated using epidemiological models based on decades of public health data, sparked policy discussions worldwide and were prominently cited in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5ºC published later that year.