Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

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9.12. Secondary Health Benefits of Mitigation Policies

Actions taken to reduce GHG emissions are very likely to benefit population health (Wang and Smith, 1999; WHO, 1999c; OECD, 2000; see also TAR WGIII Chapter 9). Fossil fuel combustion releases local hazardous air pollutants (especially particulates, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide) and GHGs. Hence, policies to reduce GHG emissions via reductions in vehicle exhausts or an increase in the efficiency of indoor household cookstoves would yield great benefits to health (see also TAR WGIII Section Controlling road traffic also would benefit health through reductions in road traffic accidents—a leading cause of death worldwide (Murray and Lopez, 1996).

The benefits to health from mitigation are highly dependent on the technologies and sectors involved. A study by Wang and Smith (1999) indicates that a significant number of premature deaths can be prevented via reductions in particulate emissions in the household sector (i.e., domestic fuel use) in China. The Working Group on Public Health and Fossil Fuel Combustion (1997) estimates that a worldwide reduction in outdoor exposure to particulate matter (PM10), under a Kyoto-level (but global) emissions mitigation scenario, would avert 700,000 premature deaths annually by 2020 compared to a business-as-usual scenario. This figure, however, can be regarded only as indicative, given the broad assumptions and many uncertainties that underlay the estimation. Large numbers of people lack access to clean energy. Renewable energy sources—particularly solar and wind—could help provide this much needed energy while minimizing GHG emissions and maximizing health gain (Haines and Kammen, 2000).

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