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NASA study finds reduced emissions could save millions

New research says reducing carbon emissions sooner could prevent 153 million premature deaths globally

20.03.2018
NASA study finds reduced emissions could save millions

California

By Barry Eitel

SAN FRANCISCO 

Scientists reported on Monday that cutting carbon dioxide emissions in the near term could result in preventing 153 million deaths worldwide linked to air pollution.

The report finds that millions of premature deaths would be avoided on every inhabited continent if world governments sped up the timetable to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. The greatest gains would be made in Africa and Asia.

The researchers modeled how many people would perish if governments limited the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement signed by nearly every nation on earth used the latter number as an aspirational goal, with most of the biggest carbon emissions cuts coming toward the end of the century.

Much of the reasoning for the 2-degree Celsius goal was based on the fact that it would be the least expensive over time, especially for poorer, developing nations.

According to the new research, though, near-term emissions reduction could save the lives of millions.

The research was funded by NASA and led by scientists at Duke University. The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“The lowest-cost approach only looks at how much it will cost to transform the energy sector,” said lead author Drew Shindell. “It ignores the human cost of more than 150 million lost lives, or the fact that slashing emissions in the near term will reduce long-term climate risk and avoid the need to rely on future carbon dioxide removal. That's a very risky strategy, like buying something on credit and assuming you'll someday have a big enough income to pay it all back.”

The researchers looked at how reduced emissions would save lives in 50 urban areas. For several major cities, including Moscow, Los Angeles, New York City, Mexico City and Sao Paolo, reducing emissions more quickly would result in between 320,000 and 120,000 fewer premature deaths in each city.


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