Clean air, green jobs, healthy children, energy independence...a 2009 editorial cartoon by Joel Pett depicts a climate summit, and one attendee is saying, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”
So, what if we phased out fossil fuels and not only had cleaner air as a result, but saved thousands of lives and trillions of dollars — enough money to fund more clean energy infrastructure in the country, like solar and wind farms, and electric car charging stations?
By switching to cleaner energy, the U.S. can save $3.5 trillion through avoiding the health impacts caused by air pollution from burning fossil fuels, writes Karin Kirk at Yale Climate Connections. The price tag is based on the value society places on avoiding death caused by air pollution.
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 fossil fuels and switching to cleaner energy.
Can solar and wind farms pay for themselves? How much each state might save varies, with the biggest tradeoffs in the most polluted places. California, the largest state with the worst air pollution, could save $607 billion, most of it from transportation pollution. Pennsylvania could save $234 billion, most of it by phasing out coal burning. With that money, Pennsylvania could build nearly 85,000 2-megawatt wind turbines to generate energy.
According to Yale Climate Connections, using data from Net Zero America, here’s how much money each state could save by ramping down fossil fuel pollution, and the clean energy infrastructure they could build with the money. (Wind turbines are 2-megawatt, solar farms are 5 megawatt. Data was not available for Alaska and Hawaii.)