Health co-benefits of achieving sustainable net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in California

Abstract

The achievement of net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2100 is required to limit global temperature rise below 2 °C above preindustrial levels. Earlier accomplishments of net-zero GHG emissions in developed regions support this global target. Here, we develop a road map for California to achieve net-zero GHG emissions sustainably in 2050 by using detailed modelling of energy system transformation, cross-sectoral connectivity and technology penetration, as well as quantify the associated health co-benefits from reduced co-emitted air pollutants. We find that approximately 14,000 premature deaths can be avoided in California in 2050 and that these health co-benefits are disproportionately higher in disadvantaged communities (that is, 35% of avoided deaths will come from 25% of the state’s population). The annualized monetary benefits (US$215 billion) exceed the GHG abatement cost (US$106 billion) by US$109 billion. This road map requires the use of bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration technology to offset some GHG emissions. However, this technology comes at a price as it would emit a considerable amount of air pollutants and reduce health co-benefits by US$4 billion. Nevertheless, our analysis shows that ambitious GHG reduction efforts can provide substantial health co-benefits, especially for residents of disadvantaged communities.

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Fig. 1: A road map for California to achieve net-zero GHG emissions in 2050.
Fig. 2: Air pollutant emissions in California in 2050.
Fig. 3: Reductions in the annual average PM2.5 and MDA8 O3 concentrations and avoided mortality in 2050 from the BAU to the net-zero scenario.
Fig. 4: Air pollutant emissions from the electricity generation sector of the ADC scenario and associated PM2.5 and health benefits.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors (B.Z. and Y.Z.) on request.

Code availability

The code of WRF-Chem model is available at http://www2.mmm.ucar.edu/wrf/users/download/get_source.html; the code of BenMAP is available at https://www.epa.gov/benmap/benmap-downloads; the custom CRFs used for the health impact assessment are available from the corresponding authors (B.Z. and Y.Z.) on request.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Project, NSF Grant AGS-1701526 and NASA ROSES TASNNP Grant 80NSSC18K0985. B.Z. was partially supported by the DOE Atmospheric System Research (ASR) programme. The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are strictly those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of funding agencies and/or authors’ affiliated institutions.

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Y.Z., T.W., B.Z. and Y.G. conceived and designed the research. T.W., Z.J. and B.Z. performed the research. D.Z. proposed the equity analysis idea. T.W., B.Z., Y.Z. and Z.J. wrote the manuscript and Y.G., K.-N.L., N.K. and D.Z. reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Bin Zhao or Yifang Zhu.

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Wang, T., Jiang, Z., Zhao, B. et al. Health co-benefits of achieving sustainable net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in California. Nat Sustain 3, 597–605 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-0520-y

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