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Environmental Economics Seminar: Weather, Emissions, and Outdoor Air Pollution

Date and Time

Wednesday 05/22/2019 2:00PM to 3:30PM EDT
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Room 1426, William Jefferson Clinton West Building
1301 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20001


Contact: Carl Pasurka, 202-566-2275

Presenter:  James Jones (School of International and Public Affairs and The Earth Institute, Columbia University)

Description:  In this study I investigate the relationship between outdoor air pollution, anthropogenic emissions, and weather. First, I estimate the impact of extreme temperatures on plant-level electricity production and pollutant emissions at US power plants. I show that in response to extreme heat and cold, power plants come online that would have otherwise remained idle and produce more emissions than they would have in mild weather. In response to a change in temperature, the largest change in emissions comes from intermediate, load-following power plants. This result has important consequences for the spatial relationship between emissions and extreme temperatures. 

In a second exercise I estimate the empirical relationship between weather, pollutant emissions, and outdoor air pollution levels in the United States. I attempt to separately identify the direct impact of local air pollution meteorology from the indirect effect of changes in pollutant emissions in response to changes in weather. I find that for ozone pollution, the direct impact of local atmospheric conditions dominates the indirect effect of increased emissions; indicating that substantial emissions reductions may be necessary to offset the increase in ambient ozone levels from unfavorable meteorological conditions. In contrast the direct and indirect impacts appear similar for PM2.5 pollution. These results suggest that efficient pollution management policies should likely take into consideration the spatial and temporal variability in the costs and benefits of emissions abatement.