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 August 06, 2020
US could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change

 The U.S. stands to avoid 4.5 million premature deaths if it works to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degree Celsius, according to new research from Duke University.

The same study found working to limit climate change could prevent about 3.5 million hospitalizations and emergency room visits and approximately 300 million lost workdays in America.

"The avoided deaths are valued at more than $37 trillion. The avoided health care spending due to reduced hospitalizations and emergency room visits exceeds $37 billion, and the increased labor productivity is valued at more than $75 billion," Drew Shindell, a professor at Duke University, told lawmakers Wednesday.

"On average, this amounts to over $700 billion per year in benefits to the U.S. from improved health and labor alone, far more than the cost of the energy transition."

Shindell, who conducted the study alongside researchers at NASA, unveiled the findings during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the economic and health consequences of climate change.

The study aimed to show the benefits to the U.S. if the nation sticks with the goal of the Paris Climate Accord, which President Trump has formally moved to leave. The U.S. cannot officially exit the agreement until Nov. 4 --- the day after the presidential election.

Shindell encouraged committee members to transition away from fossil fuels, a move that would help ease climate change while also spurring health benefits from reduced air pollution.

The benefits could be seen in the relatively short term.

"Roughly 1.4 million lives could be saved from improved air quality during the next 20 years. As we've seen with the coronavirus lockdowns in many places, air pollution responds immediately to emissions reductions," he said.

"Our work shows that action now means benefits now."

Democrats have introduced a number of bills to combat climate change, but they've failed to get much traction.

The House passed a $1.5 trillion green infrastructure package in July, but the Republican-led Senate isn't expected to take it up.

Just one day earlier, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis unveiled its road map for solving the climate crisis.

Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said lawmakers need to focus on tackling the problem despite the current coronavirus pandemic.

"Handling one crisis does not negate our responsibility to face another."