A study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences by scientists from the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington and University of Cambridge, UK, revealed that switching to renewables will not only be great for the environment but it will also bring quite a number of financial benefits to the U.S. The study estimated the carbon emission reductions by referring to the so-called “social cost of carbon” used as a standard to describe and quantify the benefits of reducing one metric ton of CO2.
It might be hard to accept at first, but generating electricity from fossil fuels is not the cheapest option for the Americans. This is definitely the most widely used and well-established method, but when all health, social and environmental costs are deducted, it turns out that coal-fired power plants are not at all economical.
Around 40% of the U.S. carbon footprint comes from burning coal for electricity production. Although the process is fast and efficient, the consequences for human health and the environment are now becoming irreversible. There is a clear increase in cases of hearth disease and respiratory illnesses, as well as a drastic jump in premature death cases. And this is not even considering the impact high CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have on the environment and our climate, resulting in more frequent and intense weather events.
The study led by Dr. Laurie Johnson had an aim to calculate the cost of each ton of CO2 emitted by a power plant. The estimation shows that society is taxed indirectly $33 dollars for each ton of CO2, while only last year, the government used $100 billion tax dollars in order to deal with extreme weather events due to climate change. And to top this up, the most striking fact of all is that while there is a clear limit on mercury, arsenic and soot, there is no federal limit on possible carbon pollution that a power plant might cause.
According to the authors, the consequences of climate change are becoming more and more apparent, and if no action is taken to reduce carbon pollution, the costs of damages due to floods, droughts and heat waves are likely to keep increasing.
In this respect, the study estimated the amount of money American government would save if they switched to carbon-free energy generating practices. The authors established that it is much cheaper to replace an old coal-fired power plant by a wind turbine, which produces a much more economically efficient electricity. This is also the only way the U.S. can reduce carbon pollution effectively.