While governments all over the globe continue to squabble about how to address greenhouse gas pollution – or, in some instances, whether or not to even address the issue – a new report delivers some much needed good news: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will save lives.
The report, titled Health Co-Benefits of Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants, breaks the regulatory debate being waged in the United States in its simplest form. Researchers from Harvard University, Boston University, and Syracuse University state in the report that the Environmental Protection Agency’s stricter standards for existing power plants will save an estimated 9 American lives per day.
As the report lays out, the EPA’s emission reduction standards – the first effort ever by the agency to reduce power plant emissions – would reduce the amount of emissions by 30% below 2005 standards by the year 2030. These power plants account for nearly 40% of the total carbon emissions for the United States.
The 30% drop in emissions will save an estimated 3,500 American lives every year. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, according to the report. An additional 1,000 hospital stays could also be avoided, along with reduced levels of sulfur dioxide, toxic mercury, and fine particulates in the air that we breathe.
The new report comes just a few months after a Washington Post report that came to similar conclusions on health, as well as finding significant economic benefits from the new rule:
The EPA estimates that the new rule would cut traditional air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and soot by 25 percent, yielding a public health benefit of between $55 billion to $93 billion when it is fully implemented, with 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths avoided and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks a year avoided. The cost, by contrast, would be $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion.
The EPA said that for every $1 invested, Americans would reap $7 in health benefits.
If the EPA rule reduces the use of coal, it also would reduce emissions of conventional pollutants that contribute to asthma, other lung diseases and heart attacks, according to a joint study by the Harvard School of Public Health and Syracuse University Center for Health and the Global Environment.
Sadly, the United States appears to be on the wrong path in terms of reducing carbon emissions.
According to the EPA, the amount of CO2 emissions from U.S. polluters grew by 0.6% last year, releasing an additional 20 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. When combined with the rise in emissions from 2012, total emission amounts have increased by 6% in that two-year span.
In spite of what the dirty energy industry wants us to believe, there are virtually no downsides to the new EPA emissions standards. And it is safe to bet that the 9 additional lives saved every day from the new rule would agree that the new standards are more than worth it.