A Wedge-Based Approach to Estimating Health Co-Benefits of Climate Change Mitigation Activities in the United States

Published in: Climatic Change, v. 127, no. 2, Nov. 2014, p. 199-210

Posted on RAND.org on November 21, 2014

by John M. Balbus, Jeffery B. Greenblatt, Ramya Chari, Dev Millstein, Kristie L. Ebi

Read More

Access further information on this document at Climatic Change

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Research Questions

  1. What are the potential health care savings from reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
  2. Can health-related savings offset the costs of implementing climate change policies?

While it has been recognized that actions reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can have significant positive and negative impacts on human health through reductions in ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations, these impacts are rarely taken into account when analyzing specific policies. This study presents a new framework for estimating the change in health outcomes resulting from implementation of specific carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction activities, allowing comparison of different sectors and options for climate mitigation activities. Our estimates suggest that in the year 2020, the reductions in adverse health outcomes from lessened exposure to PM2.5 would yield economic benefits in the range of $6 to $30 billion (in 2008 USD), depending on the specific activity. This equates to between $40 and $198 per metric ton of CO2 in health benefits. Specific climate interventions will vary in the health co-benefits they provide as well as in potential harms that may result from their implementation. Rigorous assessment of these health impacts is essential for guiding policy decisions as efforts to reduce GHG emissions increase in scope and intensity.

Key Findings

  • In 2020, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. could save between $6 and $14 billion in health care costs, depending on how the reductions are achieved.
  • This would equal a health care savings of between $40 and $93 for every metric ton of carbon dioxide reduced.
  • Extremely aggressive strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could yield between $10 to $24 billion worth of savings.
  • Fewer health problems related to greenhouse gas emissions—and thus lower health care costs—could help offset the price of implementing climate change policies.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/research-integrity.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.