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Climate action in Boston could have substantial public health co-benefits, says new study

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New research, supported by the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and CPO’s Urban Northeast RISA team (CCRUN), shows that eliminating anthropogenic emissions from the City of Boston could also decrease public health mortalities by 288 deaths per year, or six deaths per 100,000 people, saving the city $2.4 billion annually. Put into context, motor vehicle crashes in Massachusetts killed 6.3 people per 100,000 in 2016. The study analyzed how one scenario that the city’s Carbon Free Boston plan may achieve could simultaneously impact fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone levels — local air pollutants that directly affect health — and associated monetary savings. Specifically, the authors found that eliminating emissions could decrease PM2.5 concentrations by 5.0 µg/m³ on average for the city of boston. Ozone concentrations could actually increase in the Greater Boston Area and areas west, and decrease elsewhere due to the complex relationship between ozone and nitrogen oxides (NOₓ). However, the health impacts associated with increased ozone are considerably smaller than those associated with PM2.5, thus resulting in overall net benefits. Eliminating emissions would also reduce the incidence of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, according to the study. Across the study region, Carbon Free Boston would disproportionately benefit communities of color, suggesting that climate action plans may also help address environmental injustice affecting urban minorities. These findings highlight the importance of considering health impacts as a core part of the way policymakers and the public evaluate urban climate policies.

View the early online release »


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