A new study published in the journal Nature Communications found that a rapid transition to electric vehicles and heat pumps for buildings would dramatically reduce hazardous air pollutants in the United States.
Researchers looked at a scenario where:
- roughly 60 percent of new vehicle sales in 2035 are battery-powered or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
- renewable power increases rapidly,
- and nearly all coal-fired power plants are shut down by 2025.
- Sulfur oxide emissions in 2035 plummet to 99 percent below 2016 levels. Sulfur dioxide causes coughing, mucus secretion and aggravates conditions such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.
- Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions fall as much as 87 percent. Elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide can damage the human respiratory tract and cause and worsen respiratory infections and asthma. Long-term exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide can cause chronic lung disease.
- Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from vehicle tailpipes and off-road sources drop 80 percent. Exposure to VOC vapors can cause a variety of health effects, including eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches and loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys, or central nervous system. Some VOCs are suspected or proven carcinogens.
“A future powered by 100% renewable energy is in our reach and the benefits to our health is tremendous,” said Johanna Neumann, senior director of the Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy after the study came out.
To see how electric vehicles and renewable energy are growing in your state, check out the the Renewables on the Rise dashboard.