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Climate Change

Published on February 1st, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer

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Each Ton of CO2 Worth $40 in Health Costs

February 1st, 2010 by  


Using coal for electricity produces CO2, and climate policy aims to prevent greenhouse gases from hurting our habitat. But it also produces SOx and NOx and particulate matter that have immediate health dangers.

A University of Wisconsin study was able to put an economic value on just the immediate health benefits of enacting climate policy.  Implications of incorporating air-quality co-benefits into climate change policymaking found coal is really costing us about $40 per each ton of CO2.

In climate policy discourse, the cost/benefit analysis of the health benefits has not till now been a consideration, but there are air quality co-benefits of climate policy.

The Wisconsin summary of the 37 studies that have put a dollar value on the health benefits of climate policy was just published in the peer reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters.

For the 22 studies that accounted for developed nations alone, the value of air quality co-benefits per avoided ton of CO2 would average around $40 per ton, they found. The mean was $31, the median was $44, and the full range was from $2 – $192.

Including the much more immediate health costs might make climate change policy more attainable. The co-benefits are more local, nearer term, and health related, and have the potential to engage even those who are averse to the costs of climate policy or unmotivated by avoided climatic damages.

Health still has genuinely bipartisan support in the US, says Bush polling expert Frank Luntz, who should know. He recently advised environmentalists to bring up “health” as the benefit of transitioning from fossil energy.

Having a livable planet to enjoy that health on, however, shares no such bipartisan support. Sophisticated devaluation of climate science in US media outlets on the right has led to an alternate reality being developed for consumers of conservative media. The attack by the fossil energy industry has succeeded.

Until now the scientists who study health have been immune from this attack. But too many studies like this one, and that might change. In a few decades, I’m predicting, your grandchildrens’ health, too, will be just another Bolshevik plot, as is their right to a livable climate.

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



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