Wind turbines

Wind and solar power are spreading across the nation, and a recent study suggests that’s good for people’s health. Air pollution from power plants that burn fossil fuels causes health problems like asthma. So switching to cleaner forms of energy should save lives and reduce healthcare costs.

Dev Millstein and his colleagues at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzed all of the solar and wind energy produced in the U.S. from 2007 through 2015. Then they estimated how much air pollution that prevented.

Millstein: “We were able to determine what air quality and health impacts were avoided by avoiding those emissions.”

They found that the improved air quality prevented at least 3,000 premature deaths … and perhaps nearly 13,000.

Then the researchers turned their attention to the cost savings, to see how the health benefits added up.

Millstein: “We wanted to come up with an estimate of their monetary value.”

Millstein says by saving lives and reducing healthcare costs, the use of clean energy provided benefits worth between 30 and 110 billion dollars.

Those big numbers indicate that investing in clean energy can pay off for the earth and public health.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image graphic: Created by David McCarthy.

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...