A paper published by Duke University in North Carolina has claimed that if the US work on dramatically reducing their carbon emissions generally and revise their energy policy, they will be able to meet the goals set during the recent Paris Climate Change Summit and, in doing so, prevent at least 175,000 premature deaths.
The paper also claimed that a revision of transport policy, making it greener, could prevent a further 120,000 deaths by 2030, as well as a further 14,000 a year thereafter. Revisions to energy policy would save some 22,000 a year after 2030.
The paper’s authors claim that the changes that would need to be made in order to save these lives will not be easy, but they are hugely important. They are described as being more or less essential if the US wants to meet the targets set during the recent Paris climate change summit of a 40% reduction of CO2 levels by 2030, as compared to 2005 levels.
The research involved the construction of reduced-emission scenarios both in the energy and transport sectors, modelling the impacts on both human health and the climate. The scenarios involved drastic reductions of emissions in both sectors that are currently beyond the targets currently set by the US government while being within the realm of possibility.
Drew T. Shindell, the university’s professor of climate sciences, said: “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%.
“These scenarios exceed the current US emissions reduction targets but are technically feasible and in accordance with our reductions we pledged to achieve at the COP21 climate conference in Paris last December and in our climate accord with China last year.”
There is no doubt that the proposals are, as Shindall describes, “a tall order” – they would involve electrifying almost all of the cars on the road in the country – but they are also described as necessary if the US wants to meet its reduction targets and pave the way for a greener future.
Shindell said: “burning fossil fuels in power plants, industry and motor vehicles is the main source of US greenhouse gas emissions. 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.”
The World Health Organisation published data fairly recently pointing towards the scale of the impact on our health that pollution is having. Air pollution was described as the “largest single environmental health risk” and accounts for around 12% of all global deaths.
The gains are not just made to the environment and to the health of US citizens though; an upshot of the dramatically reduced health risks is a financial saving of some $250 billion. This is thought to not only exceed the amount that would be spent on implementing the plans, but would also allow for compensation to any businesses that suffer as a result of the policy shifts.