The transition to renewable energy could reduce the impact of air pollution on health by up to 80 percent by 2050, according to a study released Tuesday.
Scientists and environmental advocates have long advocated for the development of a low-carbon economy, including renewable energy, to limit global warming.
But there are few studies on the health impact of this transition.
A team from the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has used energy efficiency models to evaluate three decarbonisation scenarios for the energy sector by mid-century.
In a study published in Nature Communications, they combine these calculations with human health indexes and analyzes of emission levels throughout the life cycle of energy equipment.
According to them, a scenario in which the majority of energy is produced by solar and wind could reduce the health effects of electricity production by 80% compared to current economic systems.
"The main winner of decarbonisation is health," commented lead author Gunnar Luderer, highlighting the key role of climate policies for human health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.2 million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution, caused mainly by the use of fossil fuels.
According to the PIK models, this figure could reach 6 million by 2050 if nothing is done to change things. But if renewable energies become the majority in the next three decades, the balance sheet could drop to one million.
According to Gunnar Luderer, all decarbonation scenarios have an advantage in terms of public health, but the one that focuses on renewables is the most beneficial.
The study also looks at the ecological impact of "green" energy production by mid-century.
According to the researchers, bioenergy (production of energy through combustion of agricultural products) thus has a potential to be low-carbon, but may cause negative side effects to the environment.
Thus, measured in kilowatt-hours, this energy would need 100 times more land than the same energy produced by solar panels. And "the earth is a finite resource on our planet," said Alexander Popp, PIK.
"Given the growth of the world's population and its need for electricity and food, pressures on the land and the agrifood system will also increase," he said.
© 2019 AFP