SAN FRANCISCO (June 24, 2008) – Thousands of Californians will be spared illness and death as a result of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), according to a new analysis. The data reveals that AB 32 will do more than help fight climate change; it also will protect people’s health and improve air quality.
The report, by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Redefining Progress, estimates that all the measures necessary to meet AB 32, if designed well, could prevent more than 700 premature deaths, 18,000 cases of asthma and respiratory illnesses, and 1,500 cases of acute bronchitis. The savings in health costs were calculated between $3.2 billion and $5.0 billion for the year 2020 alone.
“Reducing global warming pollution can deliver cleaner air and better health for Californians,” said Diane Bailey, NRDC senior scientist and lead author of the report. “State regulators should prioritize measures that will reduce global warming pollution and protect communities that suffer from air pollution.”
The groups released their findings in a report called “Boosting the Benefits: Improving Air Quality and Health by Reducing Global Warming Pollution in California.” The analysis comes just two days before the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is set to release its initial blueprint (draft “Scoping Plan”) for achieving the state’s global warming goals under AB 32. The law requires California to reduce heat-trapping pollution to 1990 levels by 2020, and a final Scoping Plan is required to be adopted by the end of the year.
As a result of the analysis, experts at the two organizations recommend that the air board should include these health benefits in the Scoping Plan and consider the health savings when calculating the cost of implementing the law.
The analysis found that measures achieving the greatest carbon dioxide reductions – cleaner cars and trucks, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and smart growth – also will drive down emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). These air pollutants are linked with numerous respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses including asthma, heart attacks and premature death.
“A good climate policy can save lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other health effects. We believe that many more lives can be saved and negative health impacts prevented if CARB takes the challenge of this report seriously. We call for CARB to replicate and improve on our analysis and work with the environmental justice community to implement AB 32 in a way that maximizes the health benefits to the people of California,” said Andrew Hoerner, director of sustainable economics at Redefining Progress and co-author of the report.
In addition to the benefits analysis, the report includes three maps illustrating how major sources of global warming pollution in California disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color within the state. The maps show that power plants, cement plants, and oil refineries – which account for 20 percent of California’s global warming pollution – are concentrated in two distinct regions: the Southern Los Angeles Area and its adjacent harbor communities, and the Carquinez and Richmond areas of the San Francisco Bay Area.