Nearly 300,000 deaths over the next 15 years would be prevented by reducing air pollution, which can lead to heart attacks, lung cancer or other respiratory illnesses, a study in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Climate Change said.
“Many people view climate change as a future problem, but our analysis shows that reducing emissions that cause warming — many of which also contribute to air pollution — would benefit public health here and now,” said study lead author Drew T. Shindell, a professor of climate sciences at Duke University.
By 2030, clean energy policies could prevent about 175,000 premature deaths (with about 22,000 fewer each year after 2030) while clean transportation could prevent about 120,000 premature deaths (and about 14,000 annually thereafter), the study said.
National economic benefits are valued at about $250 billion per year.
To come up with the projected savings, the study used computer simulations of future greenhouse gas emissions and the already-established effect of air pollution.
When the worldwide health and climate impacts of the reduced emissions are both factored in, the value of the long-term benefits could roughly quintuple, becoming 5 to 10 times larger than the costs, the study said.
The study notes, however, that the U.S. will have to go far beyond its current planned reductions in energy and transportation emissions to achieve the goal.
The U.S. would need to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 40% by 2030, as compared with 2005 levels, according to the study.
Chip Knappenberger from the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, a libertarian thinktank, countered that the vast bulk of the health benefits from reducing greenhouse gas emissions as mentioned in the study would not come from reducing greenhouse gas emissions — but rather from air-quality improvements, most of which do not stem from climate-change mitigation. He added there’s little reduction in air pollution that is a direct result of reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Nextbigfuture responds to Chip of CATO. The focus should be on air pollution reduction to save hundreds of thousands of lives and save money that are 5-10 times larger than the cost of the program. It is vastly beneficial economic and public health. Any greenhouse gas emission reduction would just be an added side benefit. Any eventual targeting of significant greenhouse gas reductions will involve shifting completely to electric cars and other electric transportation and changing completely to nuclear and solar power.
An emissions trajectory for the US consistent with 2 °C warming would require marked societal changes, making it crucial to understand the associated benefits. Previous studies have examined technological potentials and implementation costs1, 2 and public health benefits have been quantified for less-aggressive potential emissions-reduction policies (for example, refs 3,4), but researchers have not yet fully explored the multiple benefits of reductions consistent with 2 °C. We examine the impacts of such highly ambitious scenarios for clean energy and vehicles. US transportation emissions reductions avoid ~0.03 °C global warming in 2030 (0.15 °C in 2100), whereas energy emissions reductions avoid ~0.05–0.07 °C 2030 warming (~0.25 °C in 2100). Nationally, however, clean energy policies produce climate disbenefits including warmer summers (although these would be eliminated by the remote effects of similar policies if they were undertaken elsewhere). The policies also greatly reduce damaging ambient particulate matter and ozone. By 2030, clean energy policies could prevent ~175,000 premature deaths, with ~22,000 (11,000–96,000; 95% confidence) fewer annually thereafter, whereas clean transportation could prevent ~120,000 premature deaths and ~14,000 (9,000–52,000) annually thereafter. Near-term national benefits are valued at ~US$250 billion (140 billion to 1,050 billion) per year, which is likely to exceed implementation costs. Including longer-term, worldwide climate impacts, benefits roughly quintuple, becoming ~5–10 times larger than estimated implementation costs. Achieving the benefits, however, would require both larger and broader emissions reductions than those in current legislation or regulations.
SOURCES – USA Today, Nature Climate Change