Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: low-carbon electricity generation

Lancet. 2009 Dec 12;374(9706):2006-15. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61715-3.


In this report, the third in this Series on health and climate change, we assess the changes in particle air pollution emissions and consequent effects on health that are likely to result from greenhouse-gas mitigation measures in the electricity generation sector in the European Union (EU), China, and India. We model the effect in 2030 of policies that aim to reduce total carbon dioxide (CO(2)) emissions by 50% by 2050 globally compared with the effect of emissions in 1990. We use three models: the POLES model, which identifies the distribution of production modes that give the desired CO(2) reductions and associated costs; the GAINS model, which estimates fine particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter 2.5 microm or less (PM(2.5)) concentrations; and a model to estimate the effect of PM(2.5) on mortality on the basis of the WHO's Comparative Risk Assessment methods. Changes in modes of production of electricity to reduce CO(2) emissions would, in all regions, reduce PM(2.5) and deaths caused by it, with the greatest effect in India and the smallest in the EU. Health benefits greatly offset costs of greenhouse-gas mitigation, especially in India where pollution is high and costs of mitigation are low. Our estimates are approximations but suggest clear health gains (co-benefits) through decarbonising electricity production, and provide additional information about the extent of such gains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Carbon*
  • China
  • Electric Power Supplies*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • European Union
  • Gases / analysis
  • Greenhouse Effect / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Particle Size
  • Public Health*
  • Public Policy
  • Risk Assessment


  • Gases
  • Carbon