Tackling climate change makes economic sense, a new report claims.
The cost of cutting carbon emissions – enough to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement – would be offset by reductions in health problems and deaths caused by air pollution, the researchers found.
"These health 'co-benefits' of climate change policy are widely believed to be important, but until now have not been fully incorporated in global economic analyses of how much the world should invest in climate action," said study co-lead author Mark Budolfson. He is a fellow at the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment.
The health benefits alone could be worth trillions of dollars a year, depending on the air quality policies implemented by different nations, the researchers explained in a university news release.
The study authors said their findings show that immediate investments in emission reductions will benefit people now while also helping reduce climate change for future generations.
"We show the climate conversation doesn't need to be about the current generation investing in the further future," Budolfson said. "By making smart investments in climate action, we can save lives now through improved air quality and health."
The study found that the greatest short-term health benefits of significantly reducing carbon emissions would be in China and India, which have among the highest death rates from air pollution.
The study was published online May 7 in the journal Nature Communications.
According to study co-lead author Noah Scovronick, from Emory University in Atlanta, "Some developing regions have been understandably reluctant to invest their limited resources in reducing emissions. This and other studies demonstrate that many of these same regions are likely to gain most of the health co-benefits, which may add incentive for them to adopt stronger climate policies.
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