Monday, August 25, 2014

Study: Cutting Emissions Pays for Itself

A study just published in Nature Climate Change finds that cutting carbon emissions has significant health and economic benefits. From an MIT press release:
“Carbon-reduction policies significantly improve air quality,” says Noelle Selin, an assistant professor of engineering systems and atmospheric chemistry at MIT, and co-author of a study published today in Nature Climate Change. “In fact, policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions improve air quality by a similar amount as policies specifically targeting air pollution.”
"The researchers found that savings from avoided health problems could recoup 26 percent of the cost to implement a transportation policy, but up to 10.5 times the cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program. The difference depended largely on the costs of the policies, as the savings—in the form of avoided medical care and saved sick days—remained roughly constant: Policies aimed at specific sources of air pollution, such as power plants and vehicles, did not lead to substantially larger benefits than cheaper policies, such as a cap-and-trade approach."
The numbers:
CAT = Cap-and-Trade
TRN = transportation sector
CES = Clean Energy Standard (electricity generation)
"Savings from health benefits dwarf the estimated $14 billion cost of a cap-and-trade program. At the other end of the spectrum, a transportation policy with rigid fuel-economy requirements is the most expensive policy, costing more than $1 trillion in 2006 dollars, with health benefits recouping only a quarter of those costs. The price tag of a clean energy standard fell between the costs of the two other policies, with associated health benefits just edging out costs, at $247 billion versus $208 billion."
Including the benefits of better health makes a big difference:
“If cost-benefit analyses of climate policies don’t include the significant health benefits from healthier air, they dramatically underestimate the benefits of these policies,” says lead author Tammy Thompson.
Of course, most U.S. Republicans don't care enough to help their constituents get health insurance, so why would they do anything about potential health benefits for them? Watch for the "I'm not a doctor" replies.

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