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Environmental Sciences | Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences - incl. option to publish open access (Press)

Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Walter A. Rosenbaum

ISSN: 2190-6483 (print version)
ISSN: 2190-6491 (electronic version)

Journal no. 13412

New York / Heidelberg, 17 September 2013

Clean energy least costly to power America’s electricity needs

Findings show carbon pollution from power plants can be cut cost-effectively by using wind, solar and natural gas

13412
It’s less costly to get electricity from wind turbines and solar panels than coal-fired power plants when climate change costs and other health impacts are factored in, according to a new study published in Springer’s Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.
In fact—using the official U.S. government estimates of health and environmental costs from burning fossil fuels—the study shows it’s cheaper to replace a typical existing coal-fired power plant with a wind turbine than to keep the old plant running. And new electricity generation from wind could be more economically efficient than natural gas.
The findings show the nation can cut carbon pollution from power plants in a cost-effective way, by replacing coal-fired generation with cleaner options like wind, solar, and natural gas.
“Burning coal is a very costly way to make electricity. There are more efficient and sustainable ways to get power,” said Dr. Laurie Johnson, chief economist in the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We can reduce health and climate change costs while reducing the dangerous carbon pollution driving global warming.”
Johnson co-authored the study, “The Social Cost of Carbon: Implications for Modernizing our Electricity System,” with Chris Hope of the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge; and Starla Yeh in NRDC’s Center for Market Innovation. Power plants are the nation’s single largest source of such pollution, accounting for 40 percent of our national carbon footprint.
"And yet, there are no federal limits on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants may release," said Johnson. "That's wrong. It doesn't make sense. It's putting our future at risk. We limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, soot, and other harmful pollution from these plants. It's time to cut this carbon pollution."
President Obama has vowed to do that, using his authority under the Clean Air Act to set the first federal limits on the amount of carbon pollution power plants may release. Critics claim that could raise costs. But, in fact, it can reduce the total cost of electricity generation, the new study finds.
Carbon pollution imposes economic costs by damaging public health and driving destructive climate change. Working together, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Treasury Department, the Department of Energy and eight other federal agencies put a dollar value on those damages, in an official figure called the “social cost of carbon” (SCC).
The SCC is used to calculate the benefits (i.e., avoided climate damages) of carbon pollution reduction. The administration puts the best estimate at $33 per ton of carbon pollution emitted in 2010.
The study also included government damage estimates from sulfur dioxide, a pollutant released simultaneously with carbon. Every year, sulfur dioxide causes thousands of premature deaths, respiratory ailments, heart disease and a host of ecosystem damages.
“Already, climate change is contributing to record heat waves, floods, drought, wildfires and severe storms,” Johnson said. Such extreme weather caused more than $140 billion in damages in 2012. American taxpayers picked up nearly $100 billion of those costs, according to an NRDC report released in May, 2013.
“These damages are only likely to increase if nothing is done to reduce carbon pollution,” concluded Johnson.
Reference:
Johnson, LT et al. (2013) The social cost of carbon: implications for modernizing our electricity system. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. DOI 10.1007/s13412-013-0149-5
The full-text article is available online free of charge or can be requested as a PDF by journalists.

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    The Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences is the official publication for the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS). Interdisciplinary environmental studies require an integration of many different scientific and professional disciplines. The AESS and the Journal provide fora for the advancement of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the coupled human-nature systems. A major goal of AESS is to encourage this advancement by promoting related teaching, research and service and by facilitating communication across boundaries that may inhibit environmental discourse across traditional academic disciplines—for example, between and among the physical, biological, social sciences, the humanities, and environmental professions. This commitment also involves supporting the professional development of Association members and advancing the educational status of Environmental Studies and Sciences programs.

    The Journal provides a peer-reviewed, academically rigorous and professionally recognized venue for the publication of explicitly interdisciplinary environmental research, policy analysis and advocacy, educational discourse and other related matters. Contributions are welcome from any discipline or combination of disciplines, any vocation or professional affiliation, any national, ethnic or cultural background. Articles may relate to any historical and global setting. These contributions should explicitly involve multi-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary aspects of environmental issues; and identify the way(s) in which the work will contribute to environmental research, policy making, advocacy, education, or related activities. The Journal provides several submission categories:

    • Research and Theory (3000-6000 words): an article reporting the results of rigorous study to create new knowledge about or enhanced understanding of environmental issues. Such articles might involve (1) findings of formal research projects; (2) meta-analyses of the results from multiple studies; or (3) systematic analyses of two or more case studies. Articles may also explore new theoretical and conceptual matters relevant to interdisciplinary environmental study.

    • Research Brief (< 3000 words): a shorter, concise description of current research or related activities relevant to the environment.
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    Submissions are encouraged from individuals at all levels of professional development The Editorial Board includes a diverse range of scholars, policy practitioners, and persons from related professions whose expertise extends broadly across the sciences, social sciences, humanities, the professions, and other disciplines related to environmental study. Reviewers exemplify, as well, a regional and global diversity appropriate to the breadth of interdisciplinary environmental studies. The Journal's publisher is long experienced in producing a great variety of publications, reaching individuals and institutions globally. Rapid electronic review of submissions is assured by the use of Editorial Manager software. We encourage contributors unsure about the appropriateness of their manuscript for the Journal to send a title and abstract to the Editor-in-Chief (tonyros@ufl.edu) for initial evaluation.

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