RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – April 11, 2022 – A study was released by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International, a nonprofit research institute, that analyzed the hypothetic impacts of clean transportation policies for North Carolina starting in 2026. The work was supported by a grant from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a nonprofit organization based in Raleigh, NC.
Climate change has been shown to be human-driven, primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. North Carolinians feel the effects of the environmental impacts of climate change such as rising temperatures and increased flooding, drought and wildfires. Polluted air and the rising temperatures due to the “greenhouse gas effect” have been shown to increase the risk of developing heart and lung health problems and increasing infant deaths. Advancing mitigation and adaptation measures are becoming a top priority in North Carolina. Efforts are being made to transform the energy and transportation systems to reduce harmful air pollution and greenhouse gas production. In 2021, Governor Roy Cooper signed a bill that mandates that in-state electricity generation achieve a 70% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050. Earlier this year, the federal government set new greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles beginning in model year 2023.
RTI researchers found that transitioning the transportation sector to electrification and lower NOX emissions standards for gas- and diesel-powered medium- and heavy-duty trucks could offer North Carolinians significant health benefits, help the state achieve greenhouse gas reduction commitments and provide between $25-53 billion in total net economic benefits by 2050. Additionally, they found that cumulative net benefits due to improved air quality over the 25-year period could equal approximately $118 billion. The research team assumed the same standards implemented by California as part of the Clean Air Act to define sales targets and emission standards.
Jeffrey Petrusa, project director and economist in RTI’s Center for Climate Solutions, said “As scientific evidence of how climate change is impacting our world becomes more apparent each year, the focus on advancing mitigation and adaptation measures have risen as a top priority in North Carolina. While the state is making real efforts to decarbonize the electricity sector, it will also be important to take similar steps to rapidly decarbonize the transportation sector. Our findings show positive impacts in North Carolina specifically on public health, the environment and overall economy of the state.”
Health benefits include fewer: deaths, infant mortality, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, cardiac and lung problems including heart attacks and asthma, loss of work days, and activity restrictions. Dr. Stephanie Johannes, a pediatric hospitalist in Sanford, NC and founder and Executive Director of the North Carolina Clinicians for Climate Action, remarked that, “This is a great opportunity to advocate for clean transportation policies in North Carolina and center health in the conversation.”
This study reinforces the need to transition the transportation sector from fossil fuel combustion to electrification. Reducing transportation pollution can deliver cleaner and healthier air for North Carolina and decrease the environmental and health impacts of human-driven climate change. Having North Carolina adopt these clean transportation policies will help to achieve local and international climate goals.
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