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Energy & Climate

Measuring the Life-Saving Effects of Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the U.S.

Climate Impact Lab's research quantifies the impact of countries, states, or cities emission reduction efforts amid global climate challenges

Life-threatening, extreme heat arrived early in India, Pakistan, and other parts of south Asia this year, exposing more than 1 billion people—more than 10% of the world’s population—to increased health risks. If global average temperatures rise 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, extreme heat and humidity are expected to impact areas currently home to populations of this size annually, with heat stress affecting more than 12 times the number of people compared to a world without climate change.

As we face the punishing impacts of global climate change it can be easy to wonder, do efforts to reduce emissions by individual countries, states or cities really make a difference? Research by the Climate Impact Lab, which measures the economic and social costs of climate change, can help answer this question. The Lab developed the first global, empirically-based model of the impact of climate-driven changes in temperatures on human mortality rates. A new tool built by the Lab uses this model to quantify how many lives could be saved around the world from reduced emissions within the U.S.—whether at the town, city, state, or national level. The tool also measures how much money the global economy would save through avoided costs of adapting to increased mortality risk. Using this new Lives Saved Calculator, the marginal benefits of each single ton of carbon emissions avoided become evident. For instance, 10 states have set goals of 100% clean electricity by 2050 or earlier. Achieving those targets would save 221,000 lives and avoid $101 billion in adaptation costs through the end of the century. Achieving net-zero emissions economy-wide in these states would save an additional 993,000 lives.

The Climate Impact Lab is a collaboration of researchers from Rhodium Group, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and Rutgers University.

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