Originally published on Sustainnovate.
By Henry Lindon
Up to 175,000 annual pollution-related deaths in the US could be prevented by 2030 through the implementation of “low carbon” policies intended to prevent a 2° Celsius rise in temperature, according to a new analysis from Duke University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The analysis also notes that health benefits of around $250 billion would be generated annually by such actions.
“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,” stated Drew T Shindell, professor of climate sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
With the consideration of long-term global health impacts taken into account as well, benefits from such actions could be 5–10 times bigger than the estimated costs of implementing them, according to the researchers involved in the analysis.
“Burning fossil fuels in power plants, industry and motor vehicles is the main source of US greenhouse gas emissions,” Shindell noted. “Air pollution linked mostly to these same sources is also the leading environmental cause of premature death worldwide. By curbing their emissions, you score on two fronts.”
A new press release provides more: “To conduct the new analysis, the researchers constructed emissions-reduction scenarios for transportation and the energy sector, the two largest producers of US climate pollutants. Then they modeled what the human health benefits and climate impacts would be if emissions in each sector were reduced enough by 2030 to put the United States on a path to stay under the 2-degree C threshold.”
“We created a ‘clean transportation’ scenario in which surface transport emissions are reduced by 75%, and a ‘clean energy’ scenario in which emissions are reduced by 63%,” continued Shindell. “These scenarios exceed current US emissions reductions targets but are technically feasible and in accordance with the reductions we pledged to achieve at the COP21 climate conference in Paris last December and in our climate accord with China last year.”
Of the 175,000 prevented deaths a year by 2030, 22,000 relate to cleaner electricity generation policies and 120,000 relate to cleaner transportation policies.
“This is doable,” Shindell concluded. “But it’s not going to be easy. Barriers remain, and short-term setbacks are likely. Pledging to reduce our emissions is one thing; implementing the national policies and binding international agreements needed to overcome these obstacles will be challenging.”
The work was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.