Many states in the U.S. have shied away from implementing carbon emission reduction programs due to their high costs. But a new study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals that savings on health care spending and other costs related to air pollution more than make up for the cost of these programs.

Carbon Emissions

Health savings from on carbon emission policy is 10-times higher than its cost

Carbon emission reduction policies frequently cite lower rates of asthma and other issues as benefits of reducing carbon emission from sources like vehicles and power plants. To compare the health benefits of cleaner air to the cost of reducing carbon emissions, researchers looked at three policies achieving the same levels of reduction in the U.S. They found that one policy leads to more than ten times in health benefits compared to their costs. Other policies are not equally effective, though they do result into billions of dollars in cost savings.

Noelle Selin, an assistant professor at MIT an co-author of the study, said that policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions lead to a similar improvement in air quality as policies targeting specifically air pollution. They compared economic costs and health benefits of three policies: a cap-and-trade program, a clean energy standard, and a transportation policy.

They found that a transportation policy with strict fuel-economy standard was the least effective. It cost more than $1 trillion in 2006, but its health benefits recouped only about $260 billion. The price tag of clean energy standard was $208 billion, but it resulted into health benefits of $247 billion. In contrast, health care savings from a cap-and-trade program were 10.5 times its cost of about $14 billion. Note that all three policies achieved the same level of reductions, despite differences in their costs. That means implementing the right policies could lead to far bigger health care savings.

Air pollution caused 7 million premature deaths in 2012

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution was responsible for about 7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012. Other studies show that 40% deaths related to outdoor air pollution were from stroke, 40% from heart disease, 11% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 6% from lung cancer, and the remaining 3% from respiratory infections in children.

Findings of the study appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change.