A recent study by CEGA Affiliate Jen Burney in Nature Sustainability measures the downstream effects of shutting down U.S. coal plants between 2005 and 2016. Burney finds that the shutdowns resulted in large gains in lives and crop yields.
“The decommissioning of coal-fired power plants in the continental United States has reduced nearby pollution and its negative impacts on human health and crop yields, according to a new University of California San Diego study.
The findings published this week in Nature Sustainability use the U.S. transition in recent years from coal towards natural gas for electric power generation to study the local impacts of coal-fired unit shutdowns. While the shift from coal to natural gas has reduced carbon dioxide emissions overall, it has also changed local pollution levels at hundreds of areas around the country. In particular, the burning of coal creates particulate matter and ozone in the lower atmosphere—often experienced as “smog” —which can affect humans, plants and regional climate. These pollutants (aerosols, ozone and other compounds) from coal burning can wreak havoc on human health when inhaled, and also have damaging effects on plant life. They also alter local climate by blocking incoming sunlight.”
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