Lower CO2 Emissions Could Save the U.S. Billions

More and more research is suggesting that strict emissions policies could have health benefits of billions of dollars -- far more, even, than the costs of implementing these emissions reductions, WIRED reports.

Climate change is about money. The expenses associated with adapting to, saving people from, and mitigating the effects of climate change drove much of the discussion during last year’s big Paris negotiations. And those costs are arguably at the root of climate denial—or at least provide excuse enough for many to throw their hands up at the problem.

Those expenses aren’t the whole picture, however. More and more economic research is suggesting that reducing emissions could actually save society money—partly in terms of public health. See, whether carbon dioxide is farted from a tailpipe or coughed through a smokestack, it’s always part of a cloud of other gases and particulates. Nasty stuff, linked to conditions like asthma, lung damage, and heart attacks. (Not that CO2 is harmless either—side effects may include famine and the spread of tropical diseases. But that’s all way down the road.) A new study published today in Nature Climate Change finds that, by removing harmful particulates and gases, strict vehicle and power plant emissions policies could have near term health benefits that translate into billions of dollars. Far more money, it appears, than the costs of implementing lower emissions.

The study has its roots in a 2014 agreement between the US and China. Both countries agreed limit their emissions to prevent the world’s temperature from rising more than 2˚C. For the US, that translates to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. “I looked at the scenarios that would put us on that path, and it’s a really dramatic transformation of the energy and transportation sectors,” says Drew Shindall, climate scientist at Duke University, and co-author of the paper. Way more dramatic than anything currently on the books, even. Take for instance the contested Clean Power Plan, which only accounts for about half the emissions cuts necessary to meet the 26 to 28 percent reduction goal.

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