A recent paper published in Science Direct, Energy and Climate Change—Quantifying the reductions in mortality from air-pollution by cancelling new coal power plants—by our CGS coal project researchers Ryna Cui, Nathan Hultman, and Haewon McJeon, along with others from the Joint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), discusses a study done to analyze and quantify the significant health benefits from cancelling coal plants. The study combines a unit-level coal plants database with human-earth and air quality models to show the benefits of accelerating coal retirement while also implementing NDCs to strengthen climate targets.
Deep decarbonization paths to the 1.5 °C or 2 °C temperature stabilization futures require a rapid reduction in coal-fired power plants, but many countries are continuing to build new ones. Coal-fired plants are also a major contributor to air pollution related health impacts. Here, we couple an integrated human-earth system model (GCAM) with an air quality model (TM5-FASST) to examine regional health co-benefits from cancelling new coal-fired plants worldwide. Our analysis considers the evolution of pollutants control based on coal plants vintage and regional policies. We find that cancelling all new proposed projects would decrease air pollution related premature mortality between 101,388–213,205 deaths (2–5%) in 2030, and 213,414–373,054 (5–8%) in 2050, globally, but heavily concentrated in developing Asia. These health co-benefits are comparable in magnitude to the values obtained by implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Furthermore, we estimate that strengthening the climate target from 2 °C to 1.5 °C would avoid 326,351 additional mortalities in 2030, of which 251,011 (75%) are attributable to the incremental coal plant shutdown.