coal smoking power plant against the sun Between 2005 and 2016, 334 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. shut down as natural gas increasingly fed the grid. While natural gas has its own problems as an energy source (and won’t get us the emissions cuts we need to halt global warming), it does have an edge on coal when it comes to pollutants. A new study in Nature Sustainability puts numbers to that edge, estimating that thousands of lives and millions of bushels of crops were saved thanks to those coal plant closures. Carbon dioxide is a global pollutant—every individual power plant around the world contributes to the rising concentration of the gas in the atmosphere, warming our planet. But fossil fuel-powered plants also release pollutants that harm their local environment. Fine particulate matter, an array of tiny particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, and ozone gas form from the smoke rising from these plants. Both are known to be harmful to our respiratory systems. Ozone can also wither crops by causing tissue damage when it enters leaves. For decades, numerous studies have tracked the effect of these pollutants on both human and plant health, but few linked […]

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