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In 8 Years, Renewable Energy Has Saved 12,700 American Lives, Report Finds

Stephen Yang / The Solutions Project

Renewable energy isn’t just good for the health of the planet; a new report shows that it’s also making people less sick and actually preventing deaths.

In fact, up to 12,700 deaths were prevented in the US between 2008 and 2015 because of renewable energy, according to a report in Nature Energy.

Unlike burning coal and natural gas, wind and solar power don’t release emissions like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. So rather than polluting the atmosphere, wind and solar indirectly clean it.

Read More: Whistleblowing Scientist Says He Was Demoted For Studying Climate Change

For humans living near these energy sources, the health benefits are significant.

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, which call for a transition to renewable infrastructure and energy sources and improved health care for all, among many other objectives. You can take action on these issues here.  

Globally, 6.5 million people die annually from air pollution, making it the fourth-biggest threat facing humans after poor diet, smoking, and high blood pressure.

In the US, air pollution reaches dangerous levels in cities and industrial zones throughout the country, from the low-lying valleys of California to coal powerhouses of the Appalachian corridor.

The researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wanted to determine if renewable energy was a worthwhile investment for the US government, which has spent between $50 billion and $80 billion in that time period, according to Quartz. While the federal government isn’t directly creating renewable infrastructure, it improves conditions for expansion through subsidies, tax breaks, and research.

Read More: Canada Can Create 20 Million Jobs If It Invests in Sustainability: Report

The team found that the government saved up to $220 billion through improved air quality, avoided health care costs, and greater productivity.

They also found that these earnings will grow over time, as existing infrastructure continues to generate energy and minimize pollutants.

In the long-term, the financial benefits of switching to renewable energy are much broader.

If climate change continues to accelerate, then a whole range of consequences could have an astronomical price tag. For example, up to 2 billion people living along coastlines could be displaced by rising sea levels by 2100, extreme precipitation and droughts could destroy infrastructure and farmland, and rising temperatures could continue to heat the oceans, destroying coral reefs and the ecosystems that depend on them.  

Read More: Temperatures to Increase by 7.5°F by End of Century, US Scientists’ Report Warns

These are just a few of the possible effects of climate change in the years ahead, and they could overwhelm economies.

Already, climate change is denting economies. A 2012 study found that climate change was shaving $1.2 trillion from the global economy, or 1.6% of global gross domestic product.

As this latest report demonstrates, the health savings are significant as well.

A growing movement of physicians and health experts is trying to emphasize the link between climate change and human wellbeing, warning that without strong climate action, human suffering could increase dramatically.

“People try to put concerns about climate change into a political box or into an environmental box,” Mona Sarfaty, program director of The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, told Global Citizen. “That’s not the way we see it.”

“It’s not some abstract problem that affects glaciers,” she said. “This is a problem that affects us, our neighbors, our own communities, our own people.”

“It’s not about polar bears, it’s about our children.”