Lancet study on savings on pollution: Health savings exceed cost of meeting climate targets: Study


The money spent globally on achieving targets of the Paris Agreement on climate change an estimated $22 trillion to 40 trillion between now and 2050 will be more than compensated only from savings on health expenses that would accrue from living in a lesser polluted environment, a new study by The Lancet has said.
The study, published in ‘The Lancet Planetary Health Journal’ says health savings, from just reduced air pollution, could be between 1.4 and 2.5 times more than the total cost of all action being taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Additionally, air pollution-related deaths between 2020 and 2050 could come down by 21 to 27 per cent if the world moves towards restricting the global rise in temperatures to within 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times, the stated objective of Paris Agreement. If the world moves on the path of containing temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is what the Paris Agreement aspires to do, air pollution-related deaths could come down by 28 to 32 per cent in the same period, the study said.
Air pollution at present accounts for 128 million deaths globally. Even if countries just carry out their current climate change action plans which together is not adequate to meet the 2-degree target there will be a 5-per cent reduction in air pollution-related deaths by 2050, the study said.
Monetary benefits of improved health in a lesser polluted environment would be evident most prominently in India and China, which together will gain nearly 90 per cent of the benefits, the study said. In India, health benefits far outweigh the costs of reducing emissions in all scenarios assessed in the study. India is estimated to spend between $0.1 trillion and $6.5 trillion between 2020 and 2050 on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Savings from improved health could be anywhere between $5 trillion to $30 trillion in the same period, according to the study.
“Reducing the use of fossil fuels in India will have a major health benefit. The current levels of air pollution are imposing a high cost, and if India continues to develop on a carbon-intensive path, these costs will rise even more,” Anil Markandya, professor at Basque Centre for Climate Change in Spain, and one of the co-authors of the study, told The Indian Express over email. “The Paris Agreement aims to put countries like India on a low-carbon path which can make a major contribution to the health of the population.”
Mikel Gonzalez-Eguino, another co-author, said it made sense for countries such as India to push for the more ambitious 1.5 degree Celsius target. “It is quite remarkable that for the case of India, the extra effort of trying to achieve the 1.5-degree Celsius target instead of 2-degree target brings in more benefits. It is beneficial due to the higher extra damage avoided from air pollution,” he said. Improvement in health, and consequent savings on health expenditure, are just one of the several co-benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The study has not considered the US pullout from the Paris Agreement.

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