In early August, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a virtual hearing on “The Devastating Health Impacts of Climate Change.” The purpose was to examine the health and economic impacts of climate change over the next century if we do not act immediately to limit global warming. Dr. Drew Shindell of Duke University provided testimony that would probably surprise many: we can save money and save the planet.

graph representing the number of deaths linked to air pollution

How is that possible? According to Dr. Shindell, the costs of inaction are steep. The avoided health care spending due to reduced hospitalizations and emergency room visits exceeds $37 billion,” he explained. That doesn’t even include the estimated 4.5 million preventable deaths that are tied to health effects from poor air quality. The testimony didn’t include the correlations between air quality-influenced comorbidities and deaths from respiratory pandemics, such as we’ve seen with COVID-19. This also means that the impacts of air pollution are roughly twice as bad as originally estimated.

“On average, this amounts to over $700 billion per year in benefits to the US from improved health and labor alone,” he explained. This economic benefit is greater than the cost of the energy transition. “These costs to American businesses greatly outweigh the cost of making a clean energy transition.”

If it’s true that we can save both money and the planet, what’s stopping us? Intensive investment in green energy and sustainable business practices can not only pull us out of the economic downturn, but support long-term health and economic productivity.

If we do not act now, it will result in tragedy on a vast scale,” said Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “I thank the experts who took the time to testify and explain how our nation, our economy, and the health of the American people all stand to benefit from decisive action limiting climate change.  We owe it to our constituents, to each other, and to future generations to take action on climate change now.”

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