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Study: Replacing Coal with Solar Would Save 50,000 Lives Each Year

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New research shows going solar could turn a profit of as much as several million dollars per life saved from coal-related diseases. (Getty Images)
New research shows going solar could turn a profit of as much as several million dollars per life saved from coal-related diseases. (Getty Images)
 By Eric Galatas - Producer, Contact
June 5, 2017

DENVER – Thousands of Americans die prematurely from air pollution-related diseases associated with burning coal, and a new study from Michigan Technological University says transitioning to solar would save more than 50,000 American lives each year.

Joshua Pearce, the report's lead author, says investing in solar is more than a public health issue.

"But you also produce electricity that has value,” he points out. “And so, let's say that we did this as a truly distributed case, and everybody just put up solar on their roof top – so they were offsetting residential electricity. The American public would make $2 million for every life they saved."

Pearce says despite the heavy up-front costs of replacing the coal energy infrastructure with solar, estimated to be $1.5 trillion, there's a good economic case to be made.

Scientists scoured national data for the price of electricity across regions, and found that switching to solar could turn a profit of as much as several million dollars per life saved.

Pearce's team tapped geographic data to determine the number of deaths due to coal-powered plants in each state. He argues switching to solar should be a no-brainer, and says – for example – if terrorists killed 50,000 people and said they were going to do it again next year, Americans would go ballistic.

"But instead, if you were part of an industry that we knew was going to kill 50,000 Americans next year – and your motive was simply to make money – we completely let it go, even though we know it's a fact that 50,000 Americans lose their lives," he states.

According to the World Health Organization, millions die across the globe each year due to air pollution, which is the largest contributor to non-communicable diseases such as stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory illnesses and heart disease.

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