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US power plant carbon standards and clean air and health co-benefits

Nature Climate Change volume 5, pages 535540 (2015) | Download Citation


Carbon dioxide emissions standards for US power plants will influence the fuels and technologies used to generate electricity, alter emissions of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and influence ambient air quality and public health. We present an analysis of how three alternative scenarios for US power plant carbon standards could change fine particulate matter and ozone concentrations in ambient air, and the resulting public health co-benefits. The results underscore that carbon standards to curb global climate change can also provide immediate local and regional health co-benefits, but the magnitude depends on the design of the standards. A stringent but flexible policy that counts demand-side energy efficiency towards compliance yields the greatest health benefits of the three scenarios analysed.

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Financial support for this work was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Grantham Foundation and Mistra's Indigo Program. The authors thank colleagues M. Weiss, K. Driscoll, M. Hale, J. Macedonia, S. Pan, S. Sekar and S. Yeh.

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  1. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244, USA

    • Charles T. Driscoll
    •  & Habibollah Fakhraei
  2. Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA

    • Jonathan J. Buonocore
  3. School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA

    • Jonathan I. Levy
  4. Harvard Forest, Harvard University, Petersham, Massachusetts 01366, USA

    • Kathleen F. Lambert
  5. Resources for the Future, Washington DC 20036, USA

    • Dallas Burtraw
  6. Sonoma Technology, Petaluma, California 94954, USA

    • Stephen B. Reid
  7. Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA

    • Joel Schwartz


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Charles T. Driscoll.

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