When President Trump rescinds policies that reduce greenhouse gases, he threatens more than just the climate. These policies also provide significant health and economic benefits.
For example, a study by Columbia Law School elaborated the multiple benefits of former President Obama’s greenhouse gas emissions rules, such as the Clean Power Plan, a methane waste prevention rule, and performance standards for motor vehicles and the oil and gas sector. They found that, by 2030, the US would receive $370 billion in economic benefits from those rules. Also, there would be over 83,000 new jobs created, as well as a host of health benefits. Over 3,000 lives would be saved, there would be fewer heart attacks and asthma cases, and the number of lost work and school days due to ill health would be reduced by hundreds of thousands. All in all, the benefits of the program exceed the costs by a factor of four. And, of course, these measures would reduce US emissions by 1 billion metric tons of CO2e.
Beyond fossil fuel restrictions and regulations, promoting clean energy also provides significant benefits. For example, the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to drive down the cost of solar power would save 25,000-59,000 lives by 2050. It would also reduce air pollution, thus producing $167 billion in air quality benefits, and save trillions of gallons of water in the arid states where water is needed most. The US would also save $259 billion by reducing losses from damage caused by climate change. Moreover, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory looked at the sum total of wind and solar power in the US between 2007 and 2015, and found that renewables saved 7,000 lives and provided $88 billion in public health and environmental benefits in those eight years alone.
Even states acting on their own or as a group to reduce climate change can bring about health benefits. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a cap and trade agreement between 9 northeastern US states. If the RGGI carbon emissions cap was reduced by 3.9 million tons of CO2 every year, the cumulative health benefits would reach $2.1 billion from air quality improvements alone. Similarly, if a carbon tax were implemented in the state of Massachusetts, the state would see $2.9 billion in health benefits by 2040. The carbon tax would also save hundreds of lives and avoid dozens of heart attacks and hospitalizations.
These policies are what is known as multisolving, or interventions that protect the climate but also improve health, equity, disaster resilience, the economy, and more. They also tend to reap more in benefits than they cost. If we want to make life better for all while also saving on budgets and reducing climate change, multisolving policies are the way to go.
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