The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Public Health Benefits of Adding Offshore Wind to the Grid
By Jonathan Buonocore
New plans to build two commercial offshore wind farms near the Massachusetts and Rhode Island coasts have sparked a lot of discussion about the vast potential of this previously untapped source of electricity.
But as an environmental health and climate researcher, I'm intrigued by how this gust of offshore wind power may improve public health. Replacing fossil fuels with wind and solar energy, research shows, can reduce risks of asthma, hospitalizations and heart attacks. In turn, that can save lives.
So my colleagues and I calculated the health impact of generating electricity through offshore wind turbines—which until now the U.S. has barely begun to do.
Greening the Grid
New England gets almost none of its electricity from burning coal and more than three-quarters of it from burning natural gas and operating nuclear reactors. The rest is from hydropower and from renewable energy, including wind and solar power and the burning of wood and refuse.
The health benefits of moving to wind power would be significant, particularly for regions that rely more heavily on coal and oil to generate electricity.
Replacing coal and oil with offshore wind will reduce emissions of air pollutants like fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. These pollutants can form smog, soot and ozone. When people downwind are exposed to them, they can develop incapacitating and deadly diseases.
Saving 13 Lives a Year
When my colleagues and I studied what would happen if offshore wind farms were installed off the Mid-Atlantic coast, we determined that they would bring about health and climate benefits.
We projected that a 1,100-megawatt wind farm off the coast of New Jersey, a bit smaller than the two approved offshore wind farms, would save around 13 lives per year.
When connected to the grid, this new source of power would make carbon emissions decline by around 2.2 million tons every year, the equivalent to taking more than 400,000 cars off the road.
Offshore wind faces a number of technical and economic hurdles, including installation of transmission lines. But at least theoretically, this form of renewable energy could generate enough electricity to supply all the electricity the U.S. consumes and then some, according to the Energy Department. Members of the Trump administration, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, appear to support offshore wind.
While it may not be possible, practical or necessary to build offshore wind everywhere, even replacing a small portion of the nation's fossil-fueled electricity will be good for everyone's health.
Jonathan Buonocore is a research associate at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Disclosure statement: Jonathan Buonocore receives funding from The Heinz Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, the Schmidt Family Foundation, and the JPB Foundation for his research.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis
Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.
Air pollution particles that a pregnant woman inhales have the potential to travel through the lungs and breach the fetal side of the placenta, indicating that unborn babies are exposed to black carbon from motor vehicles and fuel burning, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.
Teen activist Greta Thunberg delivered a talking-to to members of Congress Tuesday during a meeting of the Senate Climate Change Task Force after politicians praised her and other youth activists for their efforts and asked their advice on how to fight climate change.
The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.
By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.
By Mark Hertsgaard
The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."