Global health benefits of climate action offset costs

Global health benefits of climate action offset costs
Credit: Vitaly Vlasov, Pexels

The price tag for cutting global emissions may seem expensive, until the human toll of deaths from air pollution and climate change are factored in, new research says.

The new study in Nature Communications reports that immediate, dramatic cuts in —aggressive enough to meet the Paris Climate Agreement—are economically sound if human health benefits are factored in.

"Reducing will also reduce deaths from air pollution in communities near the ," says Mark Budolfson, co-lead author from the University of Vermont. "These health 'co-benefits' of are widely believed to be important, but until now have not been fully incorporated in global economic analyses of how much the world should invest in climate action."

By adding air pollution to global climate models, Budolfson and colleagues find that economically, the optimal climate policy would be more aggressive than previously thought, and would produce immediate net benefits globally.

The health benefits alone could reach trillions of dollars in value annually, depending on air quality policies that nations adopt, to help offset climate investments.

The study helps to justify immediate investments in global emission reductions by showing they will benefit the current generation of citizens while also helping to address climate change for future generations.

"We show the climate conversation doesn't need to be about the current generation investing in the further future," says Budolfson, a Fellow of the Gund Institute for Environment from UVM's College of Arts of Sciences. "By making smart investments in , we can save lives now through improved air quality and health."

The team's work builds on the RICE climate model, which was developed by Yale Economist William Nordhaus, who recently recieved the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Researchers considered the costs and benefits of air pollutant emissions, which produce aerosols. Aerosols have never been fully incorporated into this type of modeling, and are important for two reasons. Aerosol pollution worsens human health, but aerosols also act to cool the earth, counterbalancing some of the warming generated by greenhouse gases.

By factoring in these additional co-benefits and co-harms, the researchers identified a climate policy that would bring immediate net benefits globally, both in health and economic terms. The strongest potential near-term health benefits are in China and India, which face among the highest death rates from air pollution.

"Some developing regions have been understandably reluctant to invest their limited resources in reducing emissions," said Noah Scovronick, a co-lead author from Emory University. "This and other studies demonstrate that many of these same regions are likely to gain most of the health co-benefits, which may add incentive for them to adopt stronger climate policies."

The researchers find that the dramatic efforts needed to meet the Paris Agreement targets of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees C (or 3.6 degrees F) is economically defensible. This is because the health benefits resulting from reductions can offset the near-term costs. Prior economic studies on this issue did not support such a strict climate target.

"The climate problem has several features that make it particularly difficult to solve," said Marc Fleurbaey of Princeton University. "Here, we show that accounting for the dimension alleviates many of these difficulties: Health benefits begin immediately, occur near where emissions are reduced, and accrue mainly in developing regions with less historical responsibility for . The finding that climate policy may not in fact entail an intergenerational trade-off could completely change the framing of the debate."


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More information: The impact of human health co-benefits on evaluations of global climate policy, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-09499-x
Journal information: Nature Communications

Citation: Global health benefits of climate action offset costs (2019, May 7) retrieved 24 May 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-05-global-health-benefits-climate-action_1.html
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May 07, 2019
More hidden costs. This is always the problem with irresponsible deployment. The tragedy of the commons. In this case the air you breathe and the water you drink.

May 07, 2019
If you create sufficient fictional costs, you can then eliminate those fictional costs to show a net gain.
Smoke and mirrors.

May 07, 2019
Please explain how one can take into account billions of variables?

May 08, 2019
Rubbish. The estimated cost of of implementing all the proposed changes in process to prevent global warming is now $25 TRILLION. So lets not lie and pretend ANYTHING can compensate for that. Stop lying to people to further a globalist agenda.

May 08, 2019
Please explain how one can take into account billions of variables?
What billions of variables?
1, number of deaths if we do nothing.
2, number of deaths if we take action.
3, the cost of action.
4, ?

May 08, 2019
The estimated cost of of implementing all the proposed changes in process to prevent global warming is now $25 TRILLION.
And the estimated cost of doing nothing is often EVEN HIGHER!
And what $ price do you put on a human life?

May 08, 2019
If you create sufficient fictional costs, you can then eliminate those fictional costs to show a net gain.
Smoke and mirrors.
So despite all the many studies that show the effects of air pollution on human health you still argue there is no cost?

OK.

May 08, 2019
Rubbish. The estimated cost of of implementing all the proposed changes in process to prevent global warming is now $25 TRILLION. So lets not lie and pretend ANYTHING can compensate for that. Stop lying to people to further a globalist agenda.
Got a study that shows this in any reputable journal of record? Not Breitbart and not Watt. Nor any of the other liar deniers. Real science by real scientists.

I kinda doubt it.

May 08, 2019
Even if it costs $100 TRILLION, if it makes all our lives longer and better, its worth it.
What $ price do you put on a human life?
What is the use of the money we have if we don't spend it on improving or maintaining our wellbeing?
If we don't spend it on our wellbeing or the benefit of humanity, what should we do with it? Waste it?

May 08, 2019
Da Schneib,
"So despite all the many studies that show the effects of air pollution on human health you still argue there is no cost?"

I am not arguing there is no cost. I am noting that the supposed costs (which vary widely by source) are simply guesstimates. They have no scientific validity.

One source may say that 50,000 people will die from air pollution this year while another source may say 7,000,000 people will die this year from air pollution. The accuracy of each statement is the same, which is to say every guess is as valid (or invalid) as every other.

You can make up any figure you want, cost that figure, eliminate that fictional cost and then claim to have offset some other cost. That is what is being done in this article.

May 08, 2019
Then instead of the cost, why not eliminate it? There's far more at stake here than the money.

May 08, 2019
Da Schneib,

the supposed costs (which vary widely by source) are simply guesstimates. They have no scientific validity.
That's simply not true.

May 08, 2019
Of course it's not, but I prefer a different attack vector.

May 08, 2019
What billions of variables?
1, number of deaths if we do nothing.
2, number of deaths if we take action.
3, the cost of action.

4...Profit?

That's the thing that is unfortunately never addressed. The cost is socialized. The profits (of increased need for healthcare) are privatized. So while the argument for health costs due to climate change are pertinent they will play no part in swaying any political leader towards climate actions (because politicians are firmly in the 'profit' camp due to higher health hazards)

May 08, 2019
The US is spending 3.5 trillion US$ per year on healthcare.

How much of it is due to chemical, nuclear, and other industrial waste? Estimates approach US$1 trillion per year. Wouldn't take too long to suck up that US$25 trillion.

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