We’re all thinking it, I’ll just say it: Carbon emissions regulations are boring. Nine times out of 10, I’m yawning by the time I get to the “regulations” part. Plus, I don’t personally spew CO2 and other pollutants from industrial-scale smokestacks — even if I’m personally responsible for some of that spew — so it can be kinda hard to care about this or that incentive or check meant to keep big polluters in line.

Well, too bad, it’s time to pay attention. Carbon regulations save lives — we were already pretty sure about this, but now science can confirm just how many lives we’re talking: thousands. The Obama administration’s proposed regulations on carbon pollution from power plants would save thousands of lives every year. Here’s The New York Times with the gist:

[A new] study, led by researchers at Syracuse and Harvard Universities, used modeling to predict the effect on human health of changes to national carbon standards for power plants. The researchers calculated three different outcomes using data from the Census Bureau and detailed maps of the more than 2,400 fossil-fuel power plants across the country.

The model with the biggest health benefit was the one that most closely resembled the changes that the Environmental Protection Agency proposed in a rule in June. Under that plan, reductions in carbon emissions for the plants would be set by states and would include improvements to the energy efficiency of, for example, air-conditioners, refrigerators and power grids.

The health benefits of the rule would be indirect. While carbon emissions trap heat in the atmosphere, which contributes to a warming planet, they are not directly linked to health threats. Emissions from coal-fired power plants, however, also include a number of other pollutants, such as soot and ozone, that are directly linked to illnesses like asthma and lung disease.

Researchers calculated that the changes in the E.P.A. rule could prevent 3,500 premature deaths a year and more than 1,000 heart attacks and hospitalizations from air-pollution-related illness.

Nearly 5,000 lives saved and hospitalizations avoided — that’s about four suburban high schools (this is a unit I just made up) worth of people, which is a horrifying number to drop to preventable causes every year. 

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