Quick question: What can create half a million new jobs, modernize the country’s energy infrastructure, and avoid hundreds of thousands of needless deaths? Answer: Clean energy that phases out coal, natural gas, and internal combustion engines.
The air pollution we generate by burning fossil fuels, which produces energy for our homes and businesses and drives our cars, causes over 50,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. That’s according to Yale Climate Connections, a nonpartisan, multimedia service that provides news and analysis on the issue of climate change.
By switching to cleaner energy, the U.S. could avoid 400,000 deaths from air pollution by 2050, writes Karin Kirk at Yale Climate Connections. Coal burning accounts for about 101,000 of these early deaths, road transportation for 98,000, natural gas for 42,000 and eliminating fossil fuel production by 2050 could avoid another 30,000 early deaths.
The largest state, which also has the worst air pollution—California—could avoid 68,000 early deaths, mostly from electrifying transportation, while major coal-consuming economies like Pennsylvania and Ohio could save the most lives by eliminating coal burning.
Using data from Net Zero America, a 2020 report that looks at what it would take for the U.S. to achieve an economy-wide target of net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, Yale Climate Connections mapped out the benefits of phasing out the deadliest types of air pollution: coal, gas cars, natural gas, and fossil fuel production. Here’s how many lives can be saved in each state by switching to clean energy, such as wind and solar, by 2050. (Data was not available for Alaska and Hawaii.)