Research: Cutting coal offers significant health benefits however environmental justice issues remain

According to a recent study that used data from Texas and nearby states, the most popular methods for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation also have enough positive effects on health to pay for themselves entirely. Although Black and low-income areas also reap benefits, the study found that they nonetheless experience greater levels of air pollution and its associated health impacts.


ANI | North Carolina | Updated: 14-09-2022 14:06 IST | Created: 14-09-2022 14:06 IST
Research: Cutting coal offers significant health benefits however environmental justice issues remain
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According to a recent study that used data from Texas and nearby states, the most popular methods for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation also have enough positive effects on health to pay for themselves entirely. Although Black and low-income areas also reap benefits, the study found that they nonetheless experience greater levels of air pollution and its associated health impacts. According to Jeremiah Johnson, an associate professor of environmental engineering at North Carolina State University and co-author of a paper on the work, "Other researchers have also looked into the health benefits associated with decarbonization." "We wished to add to that work in two different ways.

"In the beginning, we sought to examine matters pertaining to environmental justice and equity. Second, we were particularly interested in how operational choices in the electricity sector might be influenced by the health advantages of decarbonization. Power systems can alter power generation at such plants to lessen negative effects on human health if we can pinpoint which specific plants are having the biggest influence on human health, and when. Qian Luo, a PhD candidate at NC State and the paper's first author say that it is well known that some people suffer more from the effects of air pollution than others. "In terms of environmental justice, we wanted to explore whether decarbonization efforts might make things better or worse for the communities who suffer the most," she adds.

Six decarbonization options were investigated by the researchers for their effects. Three of the proposals called for replacing coal-fired power facilities with energy sources such as solar power, wind power, and natural gas. Two of the techniques entailed the imposition of "carbon taxes" at various rates, essentially raising the price of electricity production in accordance with the volume of carbon dioxide that power plants produce. As part of the sixth strategy, it was mandated that power plant operators factor the financial costs of the health impacts brought on by pollution into their decision-making. The health effects and carbon tax techniques would make coal power much more expensive, inadvertently encouraging a switch to power generation that emits fewer emissions. In addition to health data from Texas and other states impacted by air pollutants from Texas power plants, the researchers drew on data on power generation from all of Texas. To further understand the local health implications of the various decarbonization initiatives, the data were input into an integrated suite of new and old computer models.

The census tract level, which is fairly granular and each tract represents between 1,200 and 8,000 persons, allowed for the assessment of health implications, according to Luo. In particular, "to assess the extent to which air pollution was contributing to death figures in each tract, we rely on published studies." The researchers were able to calculate the monetary advantages of lowering the relevant air pollution by counting the number of fatalities linked to it. The "value of a statistical life," which is what the federal government uses to do cost-benefit studies, was employed for this.

All six decarbonization solutions, according to the researchers, reduced the harmful health consequences of air pollution by an amount greater than the cost of applying the plan. While there were general health advantages, certain regions continued to experience greater air pollution than others. These places frequently had large Black populations and were low-income areas.

According to Fernando Garcia-Menendez, co-author of the study and assistant professor of environmental engineering at NC State, "there is still a huge environmental justice gap" despite the fact that all decarbonization scenarios have positive effects on health. For instance, the disparity between Black and other communities either persists or widens. In other words, while Black communities benefit from decarbonization, their gains are not as great as those of other communities. The same is true for all racial groups in low-income areas. The results were also sufficiently exact, identifying particular emissions from certain plants at particular times, to guide operational choices that can lessen the effects on human health even if the plants are not entirely shut down.

The main point is that cutting back on coal power output provides considerable, immediate health advantages, according to Johnson. And every method being considered for cutting back on coal power generation yields significant advantages. (ANI)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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