Cutting Carbon Emissions Could Save Lives Sooner Than You May Think

Slashing carbon emissions won’t just ease global warming. It could also save thousands of lives in the U.S. by drastically reducing deaths caused by air pollution.

The cuts in carbon emissions needed to limit the rise of global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) would significantly reduce other kinds of air pollution, according to a new study by researchers at Duke University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The study, published Monday in Nature Climate Change, showed that these cuts in pollution could prevent the premature deaths of up to 175,000 people in the U.S. by 2030 and save around $250 billion annually in associated health costs.

The new research sheds light on how tackling climate change can result in not only long-term benefits, but can also address health issues in the short term, said Drew Shindell, professor of climate sciences at Duke and lead author of the study.

“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,” he said in a statement.

The health and economic benefits associated with easing global warming could sway people’s priorities, Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who was not involved in the study, told The Huffington Post on Tuesday.

There are now “very good here-and-now public health reasons to make the shift to cleaner energy,” she said.

Reducing carbon emissions — especially from power plants and vehicles — prevents other pollutants, such as sulfur oxides, mercury and lead, from spewing into the atmosphere. Shindell and his research team calculated how much emissions from these co-pollutants would decrease if the U.S. were to slash carbon —> Read More

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