Environment Subcommittee Releases New Report on the Health and Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Californians

Sep 24, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 24, 2020)—Today, Rep. Harley Rouda, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, released a new report entitled, “The Urgent Need for Climate Action: Health Benefits for the State of California if the United States Meets the Goals of the Paris Agreement.”  The report, released in conjunction with the Subcommittee’s final hearing in its climate change series, provides the first estimate of what a commitment from the United States to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius would mean for the health of residents in the State of California. 


Chairman Rouda and California Members of the Committee Reps. Mark DeSaulnier, Ro Khanna, and Katie Porter released the following statement:


“The unprecedented wildfires that have continued to burn throughout California over the past few months have devastated the West Coast and illustrate the life-shattering harms of climate change.  What is currently happening across California has shown the rest of the country that climate change isn’t a problem for future generations to solve – our constituents are living this reality right now.  Today’s report is a call to action; it shows the first estimates of what achieving the goal set out in the Paris Climate Agreement would mean for Californians.  As Members of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, we are committed to advancing major climate change action to protect the health of our constituents and the economy of California.”


In 2015, nearly every nation of the world agreed in Paris to act together to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.  In California, according to the report, by working to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius in the next 50 years would avoid an estimated:


In California, according to the report, keeping warming below 2 degrees C, in the next 50 years, would avoid:


  • Approximately 555,000 premature deaths;
  • Approximately 400,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory disease; and
  • An estimated 4,900 hospitalizations for children with asthma.


In addition, in just ten years, nearly 32% of the premature deaths due to air pollution in the state could be eliminated.


According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) methods, the economic value of these health benefits would be nearly $4.5 trillion in the state. 


“One of the key findings of this report is that the United States can save lives, reduce illnesses, and save trillions of dollars by acting now on its own—at a local, state, regional, and national level—to eliminate the primary impacts of fossil-fuel pollution,” the report states.  “Over the next decade, eliminating fossil fuel combustion in this state and others will benefit Americans enormously while bringing the United States closer to the climate targets in the Paris Agreement.”


These benefits are maximized if the United States works in partnership with other countries to meet the goals under the Paris Agreement, but there are substantial benefits with unilateral action.  According to the report, over the next 15 years, unilateral action would achieve 80% of the avoided premature deaths in the state that would result from global action.


These estimates are based on new research findings from Dr. Drew Shindell, Nicholas Distinguished Professor of Earth Sciences at Duke University, who presented his national-level findings at a Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on August 5, 2020. 


Click here to read the report.



116th Congress