California would avoid more than half a million premature deaths over the next 50 years if the US commits to climate goals to keep global warming below 2C, according to a new congressional report.
The study, published on Thursday by the House environment subcommittee, came as lawmakers held final hearings on climate change.
Titled “Health Benefits for the State of California if the United States Meets the Goals of the Paris Agreement”, its lays out the benefits for the Golden State if the US works with other countries under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to keep global warming well below 2C to avoid climate catastrophe.
Doing so, according to the report, means that in California alone around 555,000 premature deaths would be avoided, along with 400,000 ER visits and hospital stays for cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and nearly 5,000 hospitalizations for children suffering from asthma.
The report also found that nearly 32 per cent of premature deaths caused by air pollution in California could be eliminated in a decade.
The economic value of these health benefits would be nearly $4.5 trillion, it stated.
In recent months, California has battled raging wildfires and since August 15, there have been 26 fatalities, 6,700 structures destroyed and thousands of people displaced. The state has also faced widespread drought and dangerously high heatwaves.
The subcommittee report emphasized that benefits are maximized if the US works with other nations under the Paris deal, but that “there are substantial benefits with unilateral action”.
Over 15 years, “unilateral action would achieve 80 per cent of the avoided premature deaths in the state that would result from global action”.
President Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax” and rolled back dozens of climate and environmental regulations while in office, is committed to withdrawing from the Paris agreement if he is re-elected in November.
The research was conducted by Dr Drew Shindell, Nicholas Distinguished Professor of Earth Sciences at Duke University.
“One of the key findings of this report is that the United States can save lives, reduce illnesses, and save trillions of dollars by acting now on its own—at a local, state, regional, and national level—to eliminate the primary impacts of fossil-fuel pollution,” the report states.
Democratic members of the committee, Chair Harley Rouda and California Reps. Mark DeSaulnier, Ro Khanna, and Katie Porter, said in a statement: "The unprecedented wildfires that have continued to burn throughout California over the past few months have devastated the West Coast and illustrate the life-shattering harms of climate change.
“Today’s report is a call to action; it shows the first estimates of what achieving the goal set out in the Paris Climate Agreement would mean for Californians.”