America has a pollution problem, especially when it comes to how we get around. From our semi-trucks to trains to school buses to personal cars, we’re emitting too much carbon dioxide. And it’s costing us our health, environment, money, and lives.
The American Lung Association released its “Road to Clean Air” report early Tuesday with a call to transition to more electric vehicles by 2050 to slow climate change and bring down respiratory illnesses, medical costs, and deaths.
The health group’s analysis found that if U.S. transportation sources meaningfully electrified, the country could save $72 billion in health costs and 6,300 lives, and prevent 93,000 asthma attacks in the next 30 years. Those numbers were based on data compiled from the ALA’s ongoing research and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency public health tools technical modeling from consultant group ICF. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts transportation use as the largest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which accounts for 28 percent of all emissions.
The report looked at different scenarios and the resulting expected emissions. The ALA mapped out an ideal “2050 Healthy Electric Transportation” scenario, which would mean a “widespread transition to EVs,” as ALA CEO Harold Wimmer summed up on a media briefing about the report.
The analysis is contingent on 100 percent of vehicle sales for passenger cars, along with heavy-duty vehicles, delivery vans, garbage trucks, short-haul trucks, school buses, airport shuttles, and more to be electric by 2045, as William Barrett, ALA director of clean air advocacy, explained. Currently EVs add up to less than 5 percent of U.S. personal car sales.
Based on its analysis contrasting against a “Business As Usual” scenario — where electric vehicles continue to make up only a small portion of transportation options — greenhouse gas emissions would drop 90 percent if the U.S. switched to more EVs. But the ALA wants to make sure we get there while looking at the whole transportation industry, not just personal vehicles.
Based on its analysis contrasting against a “Business As Usual” scenario — where electric vehicles continue to make up only a small portion of transportation options — greenhouse gas emissions would drop 90 percent if the U.S. switched to more EVs.
A Bank of America Securities report from last week showed how the ALA’s scenario isn’t a pipe dream: Oil demand is expected to drop globally after 2030 as EVs gain popularity, eventually reaching 95 percent of all car sales by 2050. As more car makers offer more electric options and accessible, affordable charging, EVs will become mainstream.
Previously, the group’s 2020 “State of the Air” study found massive health disparities for low-income residents and communities of color. On the media call, Dr. Meredith McCormack, medical director at Johns Hopkins University’s Pulmonary Function Laboratory, emphasized that pollution from transportation adversely affects certain communities.
People who live in places where they’re more likely to be exposed to unhealthy air, say, next to a highway, have higher risks of developing chronic illnesses. This is also connected to stunted lung development in children. Fewer gas-spewing vehicles on the road mean those kids won’t inhale as much ozone and particle pollution.
“Climate change might feel like a future threat,” ALA’s Wimmer noted during the media briefing. But “climate change is harming our health today.” Making your next car purchase electric can help clean the air — not just for the future, but for you, now.