When President Donald Trump announced on June 1 that he had decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, he asserted that staying in the pact would prevent our nation from further developing its fossil fuel reserves. Critics understandably have called this a setback for global efforts to curb greenhouse gas pollution.
But there is another, equally important argument for transitioning to clean fuels. Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from old-fashioned air pollution, generated by electric power plants that burn fossil fuels. Estimates vary, but between 7,500 and 52,000 people in the United States meet early deaths because of small particles resulting from power plant emissions. That’s huge. It is roughly comparable to the 40,000 people that died in car crashes in 2016.
In a recent research study with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon, I analyzed how human health and the environment would be affected if all coal-fired power plants in the United States switched to natural gas — an extension of a trend that is already underway. We found that such a shift would have tremendous positive effects on human health in America. We estimate... Read more