May 17, 2022 - Energy & Environment

The global impact of local carbon cuts

Clean energy in New York

Image courtesy of the Climate Impact Lab

A powerful new online tool enables users to estimate the worldwide effect of local and state climate policies in the U.S.

Driving the news: The Climate Impact Lab, a research consortium, just unveiled the "Lives Saved Calculator."

  • It models avoided mortality and adaptation costs if specific local, state and national-level emissions-cutting and clean energy targets are met.
  • Users can input thousands of locations such as New York City, seen above, to see how those policies help deter deaths from heat waves.

Why it matters: It's a data-driven way of measuring the global benefits of national and even very local policies.

The calculator shows how emissions cuts anywhere have a tangible impact — regardless of what's happening in other areas or countries.

Zoom in: The group analyzes the benefits of each ton of avoided CO2 under a range of future emissions pathways.

(Even the lowest one modeled, RCP 4.5, for you wonks out there, sees emissions growth that blows past Paris Agreement temperature goals.)

  • Let's say the roughly 10 states with final targets in place for 100% clean power by 2050 meet their goals. This would shave enough off global temperature growth to save 118,000-269,000 lives worldwide through 2100.
  • Or consider what happens if 13 states (and D.C.) hit their wider midcentury net-zero emissions targets. That could save an estimated 1 million to 2.4 million lives through 2100.

Of note: It uses methodology behind new research in The Quarterly Journal of Economics on relationships between temperature and mortality.

What they're saying: Climate Impact Lab co-director Trevor Houser said it can help local policymakers see their work matters — even though emissions in their area are very small in the grand scheme of things.

  • "Because of this research, we can really quantify...the attributable benefits of efforts to reduce emissions at any level in terms of avoided warming and the resulting costs on human health and welfare," he said in an interview.
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