Reaching Climate Goals Will Save Lives & Money

Reaching Climate Goals Will Save Lives & Money

In addition to limiting extreme climate change, reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is crucial to global public health. Each year, 2.5 billion people are exposed to damaging air pollution caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. A study conducted by Resources for the Future found that if Biden's goal to halve 2005 GHG emissions levels by 2030 is realized, 3,800 lives would be saved annually, and a total of $33 billion in healthcare costs could be avoided.

Why This Matters

Air pollution is one of the leading causes of early death and reduced life expectancy worldwide. Unless World Health Organization guidelines for particulate air pollution are met, the average person will lose 2.2 years off their lifetime. In addition, climate change and fossil fuel use are both directly and indirectly linked to events such as fires, heatwaves, hurricanes, and increased incidences of Lyme disease and West Nile -- all of which cause health complications that cost an annual $820 billion.

Currently, over 50% of Americans face medical financial hardship, and the costs of climate-driven healthcare are bearing down, especially on programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

HEI State of Global Air: Air Pollution & Climate Change: The Impacts on Global Health, December 8, 2021.

Ensuring the Success of Climate Goals

World War Zero co-founder Arnold Schwarzenegger believes connecting people's health to climate issues is one of the best ways to promote climate conversation. If people recognize that a healthy environment will personally benefit their quality and length of life, they will be more inclined to fight for climate goals. And signifying a promising shift in the public attitude toward climate action, just last October, the UN passed a resolution recognizing access to a healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right.

Still, decarbonizing the energy sector is arguably the most urgent and vital step in realizing climate goals, saving lives, and decreasing healthcare costs. According to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study, in 2015, wind and solar energy saved 3,000 to 12,700 premature deaths and $29.7 to $112.8 billion.

The benefits of cutting GHG emissions are undeniable and incredibly cost-effective. As stated by Vijay Limaye, an epidemiologist at Natural Resources Defense Council:

We face a choice: continue down this dead-end path of inaction and soaring healthcare bills, or make smart investments now in cost-effective solutions that will prevent millions of people in our country -- especially the most vulnerable -- from suffering injuries, illness, and premature death. The time to act is now.

Reuters: 'Terminate pollution' Schwarzenegger tells climate summit, July 1, 2021.

WW0: A Conversation on Health and Climate, August 6, 2020.