Transition to Zero-Emission Vehicles Would Save 110,000 Lives, Report Finds

A new report shows how a national transition to a zero emission transportation sector and to renewable electricity generation would bring $1.2 Trillion in public health benefits for the United States over three decades.

“Zero-emission transportation is a win-win for public health,” said Harold Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association, which on Wednesday released the Zeroing in on Healthy Air report.

The publication envisions a scenario in which there is a shift to 100% renewable electricity and zero-emission passenger cars by 2035, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks until 2040.

Wimmer lamented the “pollution hot spots” affecting U.S. communities nationwide and noted that “the transportation sector is the nation’s biggest source of carbon pollution that drives climate change and associated public health harms.”

“This is an urgent health issue for millions of people in the U.S.,” he said.

The analysis shows that more than 4/10 Americans live in communities affected by heavy air pollution.

The proposed shifts would be beneficial to all communities, but the transition would be a step towards environmental justice.

According to the report, the 100 U.S. states with the highest proportion of people of color would reap approximately 13% of the cumulative benefits of the green transformation for their health.

“The shift to zero-emission transportation and electricity generation will save lives and generate massive health benefits across the United States,” said Wimmer, who called it “critical that we ensure these benefits are realized in the near term in communities most impacted by harmful pollution today.”

The report concludes that a move away from fuel combustion would result in key pollutants plummeting by 2050. As one example, particle pollution — linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other adverse health impacts — is projected to drop by 61%. Greenhouse gases would plummet by 93% during this time.

Putting a monetary value on the changes, the report finds public health benefits of $1.2 trillion — a figure that includes 110,000 lives saved, as well as over 2.7 million asthma attacks avoided.

The analysis estimates that the transition will reduce 24 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gasses by 2050. This would result in $1.7 trillion in global climate benefit.

The report also provides a state-by–state analysis of the cumulative health benefits. Two states would be able to reap benefits exceeding $100 billion. California would receive $169 billion and Texas $104 billion.

Los Angeles-Long Beach, California, would be the top 10 areas to receive the greatest cumulative health benefits from the green switch. This area would receive $95.5 and prevent 8,680 premature deaths. Dallas-Fort Worth would round out the top 10, with $28 billion in health benefits and 2,530 premature deaths prevented.

Also included is a detailed list of recommendations at the local, state, and federal levels.

While the bipartisan infrastructure law signed last year was “an important start,” the report calls for far greater action at the federal level including policies to achieve the 100% zero-emission passenger cars and heavy-duty trucks goal from the report.

All states are encouraged to adopt zero emission vehicle standards, as 15 already have. They should additionally “invest in the fueling infrastructure needed to support the growing market, while also supporting the transition to noncombustion renewable power.”

Like federal authorities, state-level policymakers are urged to “lead by example by converting public fleets to zero-emission vehicles.”

Local policymakers must also take action such as making the renewable technology installation process easier for homeowners and businesses and coordinating with “local agencies to implement zero-emission mobility options for lower-income neighborhoods, including car share, bike share, on-demand transit, etc.”

The Lung Association also published a report. petition calling on President Joe Biden to put in place “clear policies and investments in zero-emission technologies” to meet the energy transition.

As the petition puts it: “The time to act on zero-emissions is now.”