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U.S. Wind and Solar Boom Helped Prevent Up to 12,700 Deaths Between 2007-2015
According to the research, the U.S. wind and solar power boom helped prevent the premature deaths of thousands of people and saved the country billions of dollars in healthcare and climate-related costs in the years spanning 2007 through 2015.
"We find cumulative wind and solar air-quality benefits of 2015 US $29.7–112.8 billion mostly from 3,000 to 12,700 avoided premature mortalities," according to the paper authored by Dev Millstein of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and his team. The research was sponsored by the Department of Energy and published in the journal Nature Energy.
Unregulated and poorly regulated energy production and use, as well as inefficient fuel combustion, are the "most important man-made sources of key air pollutant emissions," a 2016 International Energy Agency study found. Eighty-five percent of particulate matter—which can contain acids, metals, soil and dust particles, and almost all sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides can be linked back to those sources.
Unhealthful levels of air pollution can put people at risk for premature death and other serious health effects like lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. But unlike fossil fuels, wind and solar power systems have no associated air pollution emissions.
As the Independent noted from the current study, major air pollutants have declined between 2007 and 2015. Carbon dioxide fell by 20 percent, sulphur dioxide by 72 percent, nitrogen oxide by 50 percent and tiny particles known as PM2.5 by 46 percent.
This decline is due to fossil fuels being replaced by renewable energy—solar and wind capacity increased from about 10 gigawatts in 2007 to roughly 100GW in 2015—as well as tougher emissions regulations.
The study also estimated that wind and solar contributed to the "cumulative climate benefits of 2015 US $5.3–106.8 billion," which includes "changes to agricultural productivity, energy use, losses from disasters such as floods, human health and general ecosystem services."
"The ranges span results across a suite of air-quality and health impact models and social cost of carbon estimates," the study added. "We find that binding cap-and-trade pollutant markets may reduce these cumulative benefits by up to 16 percent."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
At EcoWatch, our team knows that changing personal habits and taking actions that contribute to a better planet is an ongoing journey. Earth Day, happening on April 22, is a great reminder for all of us to learn more about the environmental costs of our behaviors like food waste or fast fashion.
To offer readers some inspiration this Earth Day, our team rounded up their top picks for films to watch. So, sit back and take in one of these documentary films this Earth Day. Maybe it will spark a small change you can make in your own life.
On Friday, Seal Rescue Ireland released Sesame the seal into the ocean after five months of rehabilitation at the Seal Rescue Ireland facility. Watch the release on EcoWatch's Facebook.
By Jordan Davidson
Guinness is joining the fight against single use plastic. The brewer has seen enough hapless turtles and marine life suffering from the scourge of plastic.
People of all ages are spending more of their day looking at their phones, computers and television screens, but parents now have another reason for limiting how much screen time their children get — it could lead to behavioral problems.