Statistical Murders: The Victims of the Climate Crisis

The climate is in crisis. The crisis is here now and is killing people in the millions, but no-one is held responsible.

The climate is in crisis. The crisis is here now and is killing people in the millions. Every year more than 14 million people die prematurely due to extreme temperatures and air pollution, and we have yet to see the worst.

We usually don’t think of the people who are dying with any sense of guilt. After all no one in particular killed them, and it’s impossible to get justice for these deaths with our current justice system because of this. However, I would argue that we all bear a fractional responsibility, and that the responsibility we bear is measurable. These people were statistically murdered, and we can look at individuals and companies to find out how many they have murdered.

We will see that a small number of very rich individuals and companies are responsibility for the vast number of murders, and we will see that some excessively luxurious objects such as super yachts and private jets have a real consequence on human lives.

Introducing the model

We can use a very simple model that just distributes out the total deaths on everyone equally then scales the deaths based on how much CO2e something emits compared to the global average. This along with using conservative estimates for the number of deaths due to climate change should make the model quite conservative. The model doesn’t take into account the effects of future greenhouse gas emissions, and assumes that the level of death stays constant which is unlikely. However, the model can give an idea of the real often overlooked impact of the climate crisis.

How many people are killed from emissions by

1 million micro-deaths = 1 death. Similar to a micro-mort.

Why statistical murders?

You might object that statistical murder is too extreme of a term. It’s not like they literally go out and kill people. I would argue that it’s morally irrelevant if someone goes out and shoots people or if they affect the world in such a way that someone somewhere dies. At the end of the day, someone who used to be alive is no more. That should be all that matters. Otherwise, you can get the perfect murder.

Using statistical murder is a way to attribute the very real deaths back to the entities that are responsible.

Who is responsible?

But just who is responsible? Am I really responsible for killing 0.5 humans? What does it even mean to kill 0.5 humans? Or are we collectively responsible for all the 14 million deaths every year?

I would argue both and neither. The dichotomy between collective and individual responsibility is a false one. Neither view is completely false, but neither view is completely true either. The climate crisis has to be solved on both a local and a global level. If you reduce your contribution to zero, it will not even make a dent in the 14 million people who die every year. However, if we individually do nothing, and wait for the collective to solve itself, we are causing more harm than necessary, and we are delaying when collective action can be done. Billionaires should individually stop buying super-yachts.

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