Common strategies to reduce the concrete sector’s greenhouse gas emissions could increase local air pollution and related health damages.
Researchers at the University of California – Davis quantified for cost of climate change of climate change; and death and illness from air pollution.
Concrete production causes US$335bn of damage per year, but version greenhouse gas reduction strategies could reduce climate and health damage costs by 44%.
Sabbie Miller, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said, “We clearly care a great deal about greenhouse gas emissions. But we haven’t paid as much attention to health burdens, which are also are driven in large part by this demand.”
Effective strategies include using cleaner-burning kiln fuel, more renewable energy, and replacing a portion of the cement used in production with lower-carbon alternative materials.
Carbon capture and storage could significantly reduce emissions, but could increase the human health impacts from air pollutants unless the technology is powered by clean energy.
Frances Moore, an assistant professor with the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy, said, “Air pollution and climate change problems are really intertwined when we talk about solutions. This paper takes these two problems and their joint nature seriously. It shows how different solutions have different effects for global climate change and local air pollution, which may matter a lot for policymakers.”
To reduce greenhouse gases, methods include using cleaner combusting kiln fuel, increasing the use of limestone filler or other low-impact mineral additions, and using clean energy such as wind power.
Amine scrubbing and calcium looping could significantly reduce climate damage costs, but are not readily implementable at present.
While the effectiveness of strategies varies by region, a mixture of strategies could reduce climate damage by 85% and health damage by 19%.
Miller said, “As the cement and concrete industries make large efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is critical that they remain mindful of the impacts decisions have on other environmental burdens to avoid undesired side-effects.”