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Costs and Health Co-Benefits for a U.S. Power Plant Carbon Standard


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Reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants can have important co-benefits—the added benefits we get when we act to control climate change—for public health by reducing emissions of air pollutants. 

In this study, Jonathan Buonocore, lead author and Program Leader for our Climate, Energy and Health program, along with colleagues from Syracuse University, Resources for the Future, and the Harvard Forest, examines the costs and health co-benefits, in monetary terms, for a policy that resembles the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

This study is the first to break down the costs and monetary value of health co-benefits of a power plant carbon standard by region for the entire U.S. 

The study found that nearly all U.S. regions stand to gain economic benefits from power plant carbon standards that set moderately stringent emission targets and allow a high level of compliance flexibility

The authors report large national net benefits of approximately $33 billion per year for the power plant carbon standard, based on estimated costs of $17 billion per year and projected benefits of $29 billion for a subset of health co-benefits, and $21 billion for climate benefits.

While other studies have analyzed total national costs and benefits of power plant carbon standards, this is the first study of its kind to break down the costs and benefits by sub region for the entire U.S.

The results suggest that all but one U.S. region should experience positive net benefits within 5 years after implementation.


“An Analysis of Costs and Health Co-benefits for a U.S. Power Plant Carbon Standard,” Jonathan Buonocore, Kathleen F. Lambert, Dallas Burtraw, Samantha Sekar, Charles T. Driscoll, PLOS ONE, online June 7, 2016, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156308.

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Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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