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August 27, 2014

MIT Study: Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions Could Pay for Itself

A new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that when addressing climate change, the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can potentially offset the costs of cutting harmful emissions from sources such as power plants and vehicles.

In the study published in Nature Climate Change, MIT researchers compared the health benefits to the economic costs of three potential climate policies: a clean-energy standard, a transportation policy, and a cap-and-trade program. The three scenarios were designed to resemble previously proposed U.S. climate policies at the federal level.

The researchers found that savings from avoided health problems could recoup 26% of the cost to implement a potential transportation policy, but up to 10.5 times the cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program. The difference depended largely on the costs of the policies, as the savings—in the form of avoided medical care and saved sick days—remained roughly constant. Policies aimed at specific sources of air pollution, such as power plants and vehicles, did not lead to substantially larger benefits than cheaper policies across three scenarios. See the MIT news release.