Conserving energy may lead to higher mortality risk, study claims

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Energy-saving policies can lead to higher death rates and other public health consequences, a new study has shown.

Researchers estimate that about 7,710 people died prematurely each year in Japan during energy-saving campaigns in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, as the government tried to prevent widespread power shortages. Most of the excess deaths occurred during the hot summer months as older residents avoided energy-intensive air conditioning.

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The study didn’t condemn energy conservation policies, which can include everything from carpooling to energy-efficient kitchen appliances, but said policymakers should be aware of the potentially unforeseen trade-offs. The authors advised governments to accelerate the transition to clean energy as adaptation measures such as cooling become more pronounced in response to extreme weather caused by climate change.

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