According to a University of California San Diego study published in Nature Sustainability, the shutdown of coal-fired plants in the US saved an estimated 26,610 lives and 570 million bushels of crop between 2005 and 2016.
The shift in the US from coal to natural gas has cut overall carbon dioxide emissions and has changed local pollution levels across many areas of the country.
The study looked at the local impacts of coal-fired unit shutdowns.
Jennifer Burney, associate professor of environmental science at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, used data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and NASA to measure changes in local pollution before and after coal-fired unit shut-downs.
The shutdown of coal-fired plants reduced the amount of pollutants affecting nearby communities, reducing deaths from health problems such as heart disease and respiratory issues.
“The unique contribution of this study is its scope and the ability to connect discrete technology changes—like an electric power unit being shut down — to local health, agriculture and regional climate impacts,” Burney said.