NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Study Distorts Health Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Reduction

October 21, 2002

A study by Luis Cifuentes, "Hidden Health Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation," published in the journal Science, purported to show that reducing greenhouse gases would yield significant near-term health benefits.

  • Although the study was published in the prestigious journal, it does not meet minimal standards of scientific validity, critics say -- and the available science does not support its findings and recommendations.
  • The study leads the reader to incorrectly assume that (1) increased fuel combustion necessarily means increased ozone and particulate air pollution, and therefore (2) carbon dioxide reductions, achieved through reductions in fuel combustion, are a necessary and desirable way to reduce air pollution.
  • However, in the industrialized world, local air pollution is no longer an inevitable result of fuel combustion -- for example ozone levels dropped 24 percent in the U.S. between 1980 and 1999, even as vehicle use increased more than 75 percent.
  • Likewise, particulate levels dropped by 18 percent between 1990 and 1999.

The study suggested there is little doubt that air pollution from current patterns of fossil fuel use for electricity generation, transport, industry and housing are already killing millions throughout the world. In reality, researchers estimate that up to 3.3 million people die each year due to air pollution. But at least 85 percent of the health damage due to air pollution appears to be caused by indoor air pollution as the result of burning solid biomass fuels for heating and cooking, rather than due to outdoor air pollution caused by transportation, industry or energy production.

Source: Joel Schwartz, (Director of the Air Quality Project, Reason Public Policy Institute), Rapid Response No. 105, August 21 2001.


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