Climate Co-benefits and Child Mortality Wedges, Smith, Kirk , Wellcome Trust Frontiers Meeting, (2008)


Kirk Smith

Climate change issues bring into greater prominence that all the world's people are linked together and that we all have a stake in creating a sustainable path for the planet and no such path can allow for 10 million avoidable child deaths each year.

--Kirk Smith, UC Berkeley, School of Public Health

Whatever your goal (economic growth, stable population democratic institutions, global equity, art, literature, science, an educated electorate, etc.), it is impaired by excess child mortality.

Malnutrition is the single most important risk factor for child mortality. According to Kirk Smith, "each of [its'] separate causes is thought to be increased by both climate change itself and, potentially, by efforts to combat climate change through biofuel expansion [and] energy price rises."

Professor Smith’s research addresses the relationships among environmental quality, health, resource use, development, and policy in developing countries, and the implications for policy of the potential to achieve co-benefits (health and climate) from pollution control in developing countries.


"One of the few positive sides of the climate change crisis is that the global village is no longer just an intellectual construct.

That we have one planet, one atmosphere, one set of mutual responsibilities, and one fate – these are now clear."


Thank you Professor Smith. I ask, what is the value of a human life? Climate change is going to kill millions of children, does it matter that they're not yours?

The value of a life in the United States is a factor in the quality of regulation and enforcement of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and climate change policy initiatives that may not survive the Climate Zombies of the U.S. Congress.

As Washington and our insurance companies estimate an individual life's value at around 4 to 6 million dollars, the warrant for increased regulation of toxic industry seems more justified. Yet, the oil and gas industry and their government advocates still question the legal authority of the EPA and U.S. congress to enact and enforce environmental regulations as they relate to both climate change and the enormous consumption of water associated with hydraulic fracturing.

There are sociological and economic impacts of an unregulated energy industry. A tightly connected global ecosystem depends more and more on both a food and water supply that has become more privatized, making it difficult for self-sustaining indigenous farming to succeed.

One week's worth of food by various cultures:


Hundreds of millions of children are slated to die already, mostly by starvation, because of our present inaction.

The oil and gas industry has shown no evidence that it is ready or capable of self-regulation. It becomes an increasing threat to the health of humanity. (Neil Zusman. 2011-02-24)

"The exploitation of fossil fuels is integral to modern living and has been a key element of the rapid technological, social, and cultural changes of the past 250 years. Although such changes have brought undeniable benefits, this exploitation has contributed to a burden of illness through pollution of local and regional environments, and is the dominant cause of climate change.

This pattern of development is therefore unsustainable at a global level. At the same time, about 2·4 billion of the world’s population, disadvantaged by lack of access to clean energy, are exposed to high levels of indoor air pollutants from the inefficient burning of biomass fuels." (Wilkinson, 2007).

Smith, K. R, and E. Haigler. “Co-benefits of climate mitigation and health protection in energy systems: scoping methods.” Public Health 29 (2008): n. pag. Print.

Smith K.R., "Mitigating, Adapting, and Suffering: How Much of Each?", (Symposium on Climate and Health, KR Smith, ed), Annual Review of Public Health 29 (2008): 23. Print.

Wilkinson, Paul. et al. “A global perspective on energy: health effects and injustices.” The Lancet 370.9591 (2007): 965-978. Web.

See: Appelbaum, Binyamin. “A Life’s Value May Depend on the Agency, but It’s Rising.” The New York Times 16 Feb. 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.

See also: Associated Press. "How to value life? EPA devalues its estimate: $900,000 taken off in what critics say is way to weaken pollution rules." 2008-07-10.