While it has been recognized that actions reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can have significant positive and negative impacts on human health through reductions in ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations, these impacts are rarely taken into account when analyzing specific policies. This study presents a new framework for estimating the change in health outcomes resulting from implementation of specific carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction activities, allowing comparison of different sectors and options for climate mitigation activities. Our estimates suggest that in the year 2020, the reductions in adverse health outcomes from lessened exposure to PM2.5 would yield economic benefits in the range of $6 to $30 billion (in 2008 USD), depending on the specific activity. This equates to between $40 and $198 per metric ton of CO2 in health benefits. Specific climate interventions will vary in the health co-benefits they provide as well as in potential harms that may result from their implementation. Rigorous assessment of these health impacts is essential for guiding policy decisions as efforts to reduce GHG emissions increase in scope and intensity.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Pacala and Socolow defined a wedge in terms of metric tons of carbon (tC) rather than tCO2, but most researchers now express CO2 emissions in terms of tCO2. The conversion ratio is 1 tCO2 = 44/12 tC, or ~3.7:1. Global CO2 emissions since publication of this paper have exceeded even these pessimistic projections; global emissions were 29 GtCO2/year in 2004, and reached 34 GtCO2/year in 2010 (Boden et al. 2011).
Assumed in this wedge is the rapid commercialization of highest-efficiency engines, improved aerodynamics, lighter-weight vehicles, more efficient onboard components, early retirement of inefficient vehicles, increased logistics efficiency, and shifting a portion of freight transport to more efficient modes (ship and rail) wherever possible.
All projections are based on 2007 data.
Another way to increase sector-wide GHG reductions would be to couple fuel efficiency improvements with strategies to reduce vehicle miles travelled (VMT), such as better logistics and switching to more efficient transportation modes (ship and rail) wherever possible.
Negative values indicate a net cost savings over the life of the system (vehicle, building, power plant, etc.).
Bell ML, Davis DL, Cifuentes LA, Krupnick AJ, Morgenstern RD, Thurston GD (2008) Ancillary human health benefits of improved air quality resulting from climate change mitigation. Environ Health 7:41
Boden TA, Marland G, Andres RJ (2011) Global, regional, and national fossil-fuel CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide information analysis center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. doi:10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2011
CDOT (California Department of Transportation) (2005) Executive Order S-3-05 by the Governor of the State of California, Available online: http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/energy/ExecOrderS-3-05.htm [Accessed March 14, 2013].
DOE (Department of Energy) (2006) Roadmap and technical white papers, 21st century truck partnership, office of energy efficiency and renewable energy, 21CTP-0003. Available online: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/program/21ctp_roadmap_2007.pdf [Accessed March 8, 2013]
Duke R, Lashof D, Dornbos B, Bryk D, Greene N, Hwang R, Lovaas D, Mugica Y, Spencer T, Steelman J, Tonachel L (2008) The new energy economy: putting america on the path to solving global warming, natural resources defense council issues paper. Available online: http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/energy/eeconomy.pdf [Accessed March 8, 2013]
Eaken AM, Goldstein DB (2008) Quantifying the third Leg: the potential for smart growth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ACEEE summer study on energy efficiency in buildings. Available online: http://www.aceee.org/files/proceedings/2008/data/papers/11_607.pdf [Accessed March 8, 2013]
EIA (Energy Information Administration) (2007) Annual energy outlook 2007: with projections to 2030. U.S. Department of Energy, DOE/EIA-0383(2007). Available online: http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/archive/aeo07/index.html [Accessed October 27, 2008]
EIA (Energy Information Administration) (2011) International energy outlook 2011, U.S. Department of energy, DOE/EIA-0484(2011). Available online: http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/ [Accessed March 8, 2013]
EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2005) Regulatory impact analysis for the final clean air interstate rule. EPA-452/R-05-002. Office of air and radiation, air quality strategies and standards division, emission, monitoring, and analysis division and clean air markets division, Washington DC
EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2006) regulatory impact analysis. national ambient air quality standards for particle pollution. Office of air quality planning and standards, office of air and radiation, Washington DC
EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2007) A wedge analysis of the U.S. Transportation sector. EPA 420-R-07-007. Transportation and climate division, office of transportation and air quality, Washington DC. Available online: www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/420r07007.pdf [Accessed October 27, 2008]
EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) (2008) BenMap: environmental benefits mapping and analysis program. User’s manual appendices. prepared for office of air quality planning and standards. Prepared by Abt Associates
Fisher BS, Nakicenovic N, Alfsen K, Corfee Morlot J, de la Chesnaye F, Hourcade J-Ch, Jiang K, Kainuma M, La Rovere E, Matysek A, Rana A, Riahi K, Richels R, Rose S, van Vuuren D, Warren R (2007) Issues related to mitigation in the long term context (Chapter 3), In: Metz B, Davidson OR, Bosch PR, Dave R, Meyer LA (eds) Climate Change 2007: mitigation. Contribution of working group III to the fourth assessment report of the inter-governmental panel on climate change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York Available online: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg3/en/ch3.html [accessed March 14, 2013].
Groosman B, Muller NZ, O’Neill-Toy E (2011) The ancillary benefits from climate policy in the united states. Environ Resour Econ 50:585–603
Jack D, Kinney P (2010) Health co-benefits of climate mitigation in urban areas. Curr Opin Environ Sust 2:172–177
Levy JI, Wolff SK, Evans JS (2002) A regression-based approach for estimating primary and secondary particulate matter intake fractions. Risk Anal 22(5):895–904
Nemet GF, Holloway T, Meier P (2010) Implications of incorporating air-quality co-benefits into climate change policymaking. Environ Res Lett 5:014007
Pacala S, Socolow R (2004) Stabilization wedges: solving the climate problem for the next 50 years with current technologies. Science 305:968–972
The White House (2009) Remarks by the President at the Morning Plenary Session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Available online: www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-morningplenary-session-united-nations-climate-change-conference
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2014) "Part II: Environmental Protection Agency, 40 CFR Part 60: Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units; Proposed Rule," Federal Register, 79(117):34830–34958. Available online: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-06-18/pdf/2014-13726.pdf
Zhai P, Larsen P, Millstein D, Menon S, Masanet E (2012) The potential for avoided emissions from photovoltaic electricity in the United States. Energy 47:443–450. doi:10.1016/j.energy.2012.08.025
Acknowledgments and disclaimers
The authors would like to thank Marisa Oge, Lauren Finzer, and Catherine Malina for assistance in conducting the analysis and preparing the manuscript. Jonathan Levy, ScD and Lynn Goldman, MD, MPH provided critical advice on the conduct of the analysis. William Morrow, PhD, PE assembled the set of wedge mitigation cost estimates and provided a comparison between 2007 and 2013 EIA assumptions. We also would like to thank the reviewer for very helpful comments.
This article is the work product of an employee or group of employees of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. However, the statements, opinions or conclusions contained therein do not necessarily represent the statements, opinions or conclusions of the NIH, its component Institutes and Centers, the Regents of the University of California, or the United States government or any agency thereof.
This research was supported in part by Laboratory Directed Research and Development funding at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), which is operated for U.S. Department of Energy under Contract Grant No. DE-AC02-05CH11231.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
(DOCX 1030 kb)
About this article
Cite this article
Balbus, J.M., Greenblatt, J.B., Chari, R. et al. A wedge-based approach to estimating health co-benefits of climate change mitigation activities in the United States. Climatic Change 127, 199–210 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1262-5
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Vehicle Mile Travel
- Intake Fraction
- Health Endpoint
- Wedge Activity