November 17, 2023
3 minimum reading
The United States will see “fewer emergency room visits, fewer asthma attacks” and save money by reducing carbon emissions, according to a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
CLIMATE CABLE | Slashing carbon emissions over the next three decades will prevent tens of thousands of deaths in the United States and save trillions of dollars by reducing air pollutants and alleviating climate-caused disasters, according to a report released Thursday.
The Union of Concerned Scientists advocacy group estimates that At least 32,000 deaths could be avoided. whether the United States can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, as renewable energy sources replace fossil fuels that emit toxic chemicals and fine particles that cause respiratory diseases.
The report also says the United States can avoid nearly $1.3 trillion in damage from disasters that are likely to intensify with climate change and save at least $360 billion in health care costs by 2050 if the country achieves net emissions. zero that same year.
“Those benefits are offsetting the cost” of reducing emissions, said Steve Clemmer, one of the report’s authors and the science group’s director of energy research and analysis.
“Fewer emergency room visits, fewer asthma attacks, and the public health impacts resulting from toxic air pollutants” outweigh the cost “of investing in clean energy technologies to achieve our climate goals,” Clemmer added.
Estimates of preventable deaths and excess health care spending are conservative in many ways, and the true number could be much higher, Clemmer said. The report uses a model that takes into account only deaths caused by air pollutants, such as fine particles, and excludes those killed by increasingly intense heat waves, storms, wildfires and hurricanes.
The actual figure for damages avoided from natural disasters could also be much higher than $1.3 trillion, Clemmer said. The authors calculated the impact of carbon dioxide emissions and ignored warming caused by other greenhouse gases such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons, which are much more potent than CO2.
Climate scientists say global warming will fuel more intense and frequent storms that flood neighborhoods and key infrastructure such as roads, bridges and electrical networks. With rising sea temperatures, hurricanes are also increasing in strength and are more likely to reach inland areas and dump inches of rain in a matter of hours.
To calculate estimates of excess deaths and avoidable health care costs, the report’s authors used a climate model that simulated four different future trajectories of annual greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The authors compared net-zero scenarios with an absolute emissions trajectory in the United States to estimate excess deaths and increased health care costs from burning fossil fuels.
To estimate damage from climate-induced disasters, the authors used a federal government dollar figure that approximates the damage from an additional ton of carbon emissions, called the social cost of carbon. Clemmer said. Currently, the federal government sets the carbon price at $51 per ton, but the EPA has proposed increase that number to $190.
The report also found that the Inflation Reduction Act, the climate law that Congress passed in 2022, has “more than doubled” the pace of emissions reductions, but still falls short of the Biden administration’s goal of reducing emissions. half emissions by 2030 and reach net zero. emissions by 2050. The pace of carbon emissions reduction should reach 5 percent annually from 3 percent currently, the report says.
“We’ve waited so long that 2030 is not far away,” Clemmer said. “We need to achieve pretty deep reductions.”
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environmental professionals.