The Health-Climate Nexus

Brad Plumer writes:

A friend was half-joking to me the other day that you could do far more for public health by passing a carbon cap-and-trade bill than by pushing for universal health care. Maybe that's right (see also this recent study showing that increases in CO2 can worsen the adverse respiratory effects of ozone and other air pollutants.) Especially if a climate bill provided incentives for, say, people to move to urban areas and walk and take public transit.

Maybe I'm Brad's friend or maybe the friend reads my blog, but as I've written "if Hillary Clinton's entire agenda were enacted, her climate change proposals would wind up doing more to improve public health than would her health care proposals." My assumption here is, of course, that under an auctioned cap and trade regime it's basically inevitable that people would drive less and do more walking or bike riding.

Relatively small changes could make a big difference in this regard. Even though all us yuppies have our gym members, most Americans are almost entirely sedentary, neither exercising nor walking much. At the same time, tons of people just die in car wrecks directly. There are good reasons to reform the health care syste, beyond the direct public health benefits (it'd be fairer, give people peace of mind, probably enhance economic opportunities and efficiency, etc.) but public health is important too and lifestyle issues are of paramount importance there.