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Coal smoke and steam vapor pour out of the Bruce Mansfield Power Plant across from a largely abandoned children's park in Shippingport, Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2008. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

About 53,200 premature deaths could be avoided in the U.S. each year if the fine particulate air pollution emissions produced by transportation, industrial activities, the generation of electricity, cooking and heating were eliminated, according to a new study, a press release from the University of Wisconsin-Madison said. Avoided deaths and healthcare costs from illnesses would also result in about $608 billion in benefits per year.

The polluting activities rely mostly on the burning of fossil fuels and so are significant producers of the carbon dioxide emissions driving climate change.

About 53,200 premature deaths could be avoided in the U.S. each year if the fine particulate air pollution emissions produced by transportation, industrial activities, the generation of electricity, cooking and heating were eliminated, according to a new study, a press release from the University of Wisconsin-Madison said. Avoided deaths and healthcare costs from illnesses would also result in about $608 billion in benefits per year.

The polluting activities rely mostly on the burning of fossil fuels and so are significant producers of the carbon dioxide emissions driving climate change.

“Our work provides a sense of the scale of the air quality health benefits that could accompany deep decarbonization of the U.S. energy system,” said the study’s lead author Nick Mailloux, who is a graduate student at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment in University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, as reported by The Hill. “Shifting to clean energy sources can provide enormous benefit for public health in the near term while mitigating climate change in the longer term.”

The study by researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Nationwide and Regional PM2.5-Related Air Quality Health Benefits From the Removal of Energy-Related Emissions in the United States,” was published in the journal GeoHealth.

Using a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency model, Mailloux worked with public health and air quality specialists to determine what the health benefits would be from completely reducing fine particulate matter emissions, as well as emissions from nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, which have the ability to create particulate matter after being released into Earth’s atmosphere, the press release said. The toxins are contributors to health issues like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and serious lower respiratory infections.

The study’s researchers looked into how the actions of specific regions to lower emissions would affect the health of the area’s population. They found the potential for a wide array of results in different parts of the country, due in part to geographical differences in population and energy usage.

“Between 32 percent and 95 percent of the health benefits from eliminating emissions in a region will remain in that region,” the study said. “On average, slightly more than two-thirds (69%) of the health benefits from emissions removal in a region — represented by our central estimate of avoided mortality — remain in the emitting region.”

For example, the researchers found that the states that make up the Southwest — California, Nevada and Arizona — would be able to reap 95 percent of the gains from the elimination of emissions from fine particles alone, but such local benefits weren’t seen in all regions of the country.

“In the Mountain region, though, most of the benefit of emissions removal is felt somewhere else,” said Mailloux, as University of Wisconsin-Madison stated in the press release. “Just 32 percent of the benefit remains in states in the Mountain region. This is partly because there are large population centers downwind of the Mountain region that would also benefit.”

However, the study showed that, in every part of the country, national action was more effective than regional measures to lower emissions.

“The Great Plains, for example, gets more than twice as much benefit from nationwide efforts as it does from acting alone,” Mailloux said, according to the press release. “The more that states and regions can coordinate their emissions reductions efforts, the greater the benefit they can provide to us all.”

In identifying short-term benefits of pollution reduction against the backdrop of potentially disastrous future effects of climate change, the aim of the researchers was to inspire greater initiative to curb these outcomes.

“Our analysis is timely, following last month’s report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that called for urgent action to transform the world’s energy economy,” said Jonathan Patz, senior author of the study and a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor in the Nelson Institute and Department of Population Health Sciences, as stated in the press release. “My hope is that our research findings might spur decision-makers grappling with the necessary move away from fossil fuels, to shift their thinking from burdens to benefits.”

Patz added that “people look at this as such a huge challenge, but when you look at the health repercussions of switching to clean energy, the benefits are enormous,” as reported by The Washington Post.

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A reconstruction drawing of a feast at Arthur's Hall, a medieval castle in Dover, Kent, England founded in the 11th century. Artist Terry Ball. Photo by English Heritage / Heritage Images / Getty Images

Flexitarianism isn’t so new after all. As it turns out, kings in the medieval period ate mostly plants, with meat served as occasional treats for feasts and other celebrations. A study from researchers at Cambridge University found that the wealthiest, most powerful people in society during these times ate mostly vegetarian diets.

Bioarchaeologist Sam Leggett and a team of researchers analyzed 2,023 skeletons of people buried in England from the 5th to the 11th centuries. In the study, they considered where and what the bodies were buried with to determine class, then analyzed the bones to better determine disease and diets.

Flexitarianism isn’t so new after all. As it turns out, kings in the medieval period ate mostly plants, with meat served as occasional treats for feasts and other celebrations. A study from researchers at Cambridge University found that the wealthiest, most powerful people in society during these times ate mostly vegetarian diets.

Bioarchaeologist Sam Leggett and a team of researchers analyzed 2,023 skeletons of people buried in England from the 5th to the 11th centuries. In the study, they considered where and what the bodies were buried with to determine class, then analyzed the bones to better determine disease and diets.

According to Leggett, there was no evidence that higher social class was linked to higher meat consumption. In fact, the lack of certain diseases in the remains suggests that even royal members of society were rarely eating meat. They may have had meat available at feasts, as evidenced by royal food lists that were also translated and analyzed, but it isn’t likely kings or other upper class members of society were eating meat daily.

“I’ve found no evidence of people eating anything like this much animal protein on a regular basis,” Leggett told BBC. “If they were, we would find isotopic evidence of excess protein and signs of diseases like gout from the bones. But we’re just not finding that. The isotopic evidence suggests that diets in this period were much more similar across social groups than we’ve been led to believe. We should imagine a wide range of people livening up bread with small quantities of meat and cheese, or eating pottages of leeks and whole grains with a little meat thrown in.”

Gout was once known as the “disease of kings” and is often linked to meat consumption, as red meat worsens gout symptoms like painful swelling, as reported by Plant Based News. But the evidence showing a lack of gout goes against what many believed about those times, particularly that the rich (especially kings) ate meat in high quantities. In reality, it’s likely they ate more of a grain-based diet.

These findings raise more questions about dining in general and how it impacted society.

“Historians generally assume that medieval feasts were exclusively for elites,” said study co-author and historian Tom Lambert. “But these food lists show that even if you allow for huge appetites, 300 or more people must have attended. That means that a lot of ordinary farmers must have been there, and this has big political implications.”

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Bathtub Gin in New York sells Air Vodka. Photo credit: Anna Webber/Getty Images for Bacardi

Is it possible to drink away the climate crisis

Air Company is attempting to find out. The company has developed a way to transform carbon dioxide into impurity-free alcohols, including vodka. 

Is it possible to drink away the climate crisis

Air Company is attempting to find out. The company has developed a way to transform carbon dioxide into impurity-free alcohols, including vodka. 

“We work with partners that capture that carbon dioxide before it’s emitted into the atmosphere, and then we use that CO2 in our process in creating the alcohols that we create,” Air Company CEO and co-founder Gregory Constantine told CNBC Monday. “It’s obviously far better for the planet in that we’re removing CO2 for every bottle that we’re creating.”

Air Company

The company was founded in 2019 by Constantine and Dr. Stafford Sheehan, according to its website. It uses a patented and proprietary technology that mimics the process of photosynthesis by capturing carbon dioxide and transforming it into pure alcohols that only leave oxygen and water behind. These alcohols are then used by the company to make eau de parfum, hand sanitizer and vodka. The process is not cheap, and the vodka retails for around $65 per bottle, according to CNBC.

Sheehan, who serves as the company’s chief technology officer, told Fast Company in 2021 that the decision to make vodka was a serendipitous one. 

 “We ended up targeting premium spirits because the ethanol that we were making was really, really high purity, and the place where you can recognize the benefits of that really high purity is in a really premium vodka,” he said. 

The average bottle of vodka emits greenhouse gas emissions to produce, around 13 pounds of them. But a bottle of Air Vodka actually helps remove about a pound of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The vodka was released in New York right before the pandemic; when the first lockdown was announced, the company used its technology to make hand sanitizer. 

“During the pandemic, we put out a sanitation product — a hand sanitizer that we’ve donated throughout New York and across the U.S.,” Constantine told TechCrunch. 

Now, the vodka is on tap at New York bars like Bathtub Gin, where it is attracting positive attention, CNBC reported. 

“Once we tell them, ’hey, this is how it’s made and it’s got a negative carbon footprint, all those really beautiful things, is what happens to make them want it even more,” Bathtub Gin beverage director and head bartender Brendan Bartley told CNBC. 

The company recently raised $30 million in Series A funding from companies including Toyota Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures and Parley for the Oceans, TechCrunch reported. The funding will go towards building a third facility with the company’s largest carbon utilization system so far. 

“Our immediate goal at Air Company is to further improve and scale our technology that converts carbon dioxide into the cleanest, lowest carbon intensity alcohols for consumer products, on the path to industrial applications,” Sheehan told TechCrunch. “Ultimately, we aim to truly have an impact toward addressing climate change by utilizing waste and atmospheric carbon dioxide to displace fossil fuels at-scale; replacing the carbon that we currently extract from the ground, with carbon removed from the air.”

Constantine said that the funding would help make more of Air’s carbon negative products available. 

“The funding that we’ve brought on is to really help scale those products to meet demand because we’re constantly selling out of all the products that we produce,” he told TechCrunch. 

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