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For plenty of people around the world, climate change is already impacting health and economic stability. For many in the developed world, though, our relative insulation from these impacts can make it too easy to tune out the call for carbon regulations. But, when you look closer, regulations that reduce carbon emissions create all sorts of immediate benefits beyond climate change alone, including saving lives and saving hundreds of billions of dollars.
Why We Need Carbon Regulations
Nearly every time we blink there’s another carbon emissions headline. The latest came when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that, as of this March, the global monthly average for CO2 surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm). To put that in perspective, 400 ppm is more CO2 than the planet has seen in nearly 2 million years. All the fossil fuels we’re burning are accelerating the pace of this change, 100 times faster than past natural increases of CO2. While individual changes are important, we need broad government regulations and need to send the signal that we must shift away from fossil fuels, now.
Last June, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce carbon emissions by introducing regulatory rules on coal-fired power plants across the country. It was a bold step in the right direction.
Regulations Can Save Lives
It’s hard to argue that any one regulation, or set of regulations, will save the world from the worst impacts of climate change. And while there are plenty of problems associated with climate change right now, we can only predict just how bad things will get in the future.
But, because so many carbon emissions are connected to fossil fuels, their sources come with more immediate environmental and health impacts. Coal fired power plants, for example, put out pollutants including soot and ozone that are linked to asthma, lung diseases and other illness. Now, a new study has found that the EPA plan to curb coal-fired power plant emissions would not only contribute to the fight against climate change, but save up to 3,550 lives and prevent more than 1,000 hospitalizations.
Health Benefits Pay for Regulation
Of course, avoiding illness and loss of life is worth it alone. But, when we consider the price of carbon regulations, this MIT study argues the avoided health costs need to be part of the equation. In it, researchers looked at US carbon emissions policies and concluded that the avoided healthcare costs from air quality problems will balance and even outweigh the expenses of the policies themselves.
To us it seems pretty simple. Fossil fuels are outdated, wasteful and polluting. Replacing them means rethinking how we get our energy— it’s a problem that offers us more and more benefits by solving.
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