Monday, August 21, 2017

Report: Wind and Solar Power Reduce Pollution, Benefit Our Health and Climate, and Save Money

Wind and solar power are saving Americans an astounding amount of money

Not getting sick and dying from pollution is worth quite a bit, it turns out.

By David Roberts  | | Aug 18, 2017

Wind and solar power are subsidized by just about every major country in the world, either directly or indirectly through tax breaks, mandates, and regulations.

The main rationale for these subsidies is that wind and solar produce benefits to society that are not captured in their market price (a.k.a. “positive externalities”). Specifically, wind and solar power reduce pollution, which reduces sickness, missed work days, and early deaths. Every wind farm or solar field displaces some other form of power generation (usually coal or natural gas) that would have polluted more.

Subsidies for renewable energy sources are meant to remedy this market failure, to make the market value of renewables more accurately reflect their total social value.

This raises an obvious question: Are renewable energy subsidies doing the job? That is to say, are they accurately reflecting the size and nature of their benefits to society?

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab published a comprehensive report on the health and environmental benefits of wind and solar in the US between 2007 (when the market was virtually nothing) and 2015 (after years of explosive market growth).

Below are the main conclusions:
  • From 2007 to 2015, wind and solar in the US reduced SO2, NOx, and PM2.5 by 1.0, 0.6, and 0.05 million tons respectively;
  • Reduction of those local air pollutants helped avoid 7,000 premature deaths (the central estimate in a range from 3,000 to 12,700);
  • Those avoided deaths, along with other public health impacts, are worth a cumulative $56 billion (the central estimate in a range from $30 to $113 billion);
  • Wind and solar also reduced CO2 emissions, to the tune of $32 billion in avoided climate costs (the central estimate in a range from $5 to $107 billion).
If you add up those central estimates, wind and solar saved Americans around $88 billion in health and environmental costs over eight years. Not bad.

Costs and benefits

In this case, as in all such cases, it is somewhat misleading to simply compare total subsidies with total health and environmental benefits. The total amounts are not all that matters. It also matters how costs and benefits are distributed — i.e., equity matters as well.

To put it bluntly: A dollar in federal taxes is not equivalent to a dollar of avoided health and environmental costs. The latter dollar is worth more than the former dollar.

Why is that? Simple: Federal taxes come disproportionately from the wealthy, via our progressive federal income tax, but health and environmental benefits disproportionately help the poor. And as any good economist will tell you, the same dollar is worth more to a poor person than it is to a rich person.

This is something that often gets lost in discussions of environmental regulations. It’s not just that their total benefits almost always exceed their direct costs. It’s that those benefits are uniquely egalitarian and progressive.

In the case of climate change, any reduction in CO2 emissions benefits everyone on Earth (egalitarian), while disproportionately helping the poor, who suffer earliest and most from climate impacts (progressive).

In the case of local air-quality benefits, cleaner air benefits everyone in the region who breathes (egalitarian), while disproportionately helping the poor, who are more likely to live in close proximity to fossil fuel power plants (progressive).

In terms of equity, converting a dollar of wealthy people’s money into a dollar of health for low-income communities seems like a good deal to me. And if you can get multiple dollars of low-income health benefit for every dollar of high-income taxes, well, that’s a no brainer.

Everybody breathes. Any dollar of federal income taxes used to produce a dollar of air and climate benefits is a net gain for justice.

Excerpts of the article are shown above. To read the full article, visit

Sunday, August 20, 2017

COMMUNITY FORUM: Educational Presentations on Mitigating Climate Change

ADK Niagara Frontier Chapter

Conservation Committee

presents a



 Mitigating Climate Change

September 16, 2017

 Free and Open to the Public.


The program will discuss methods that are currently being utilized or are being researched to decrease the effect of climate change on people, communities and aquatic ecosystems. This program is offered at no charge as part of an educational outreach to educate individuals, policy makers and community activists about climate change and how each one of us can participate in decreasing the effect it has on the planet.


Our expert speakers will share a wealth of knowledge on a topic they are passionate about:

  • Christopher Page, MS – Senior Biologist, Mote Marine Laboratory in the Florida Keys will speak about Coral Re-skinning to mitigate the effect of climate change on coral reefs. He will discuss the importance of coral reefs and the impact climate change is having on them.
  • ZoĆ© A. Hamstead, PhD – Assistant Professor, University at Buffalo School of Architecture & Planning and Director of the Community Resilience Lab, Dr. Hamstead will share her research on the impact of extreme heats on communities and the development of socially equitable, livable & healthy urban communities.
  • Leah B. Bernhardi, BS, MS, J.D. will share her experience in December 2015 when she spent a week in Paris, France attending the 21st Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. She will discuss the Paris Agreement, what other countries are doing and what we can do about climate change



Daemen College
Schenck Hall / Auditorium Room 107
4380 Main Street
Amherst, NY 14226  [Map - Click here]


Doors open at 8:30 am, refreshments will be available.
Presentations start at 9:00 AM. The program ends at noon.

For more information, contact Jay Wopperer at

Co-sponsored by:  Daemen College Global & Local Sustainability Department