Local air pollution and global climate change: A combined cost-benefit analysis
This article presents the findings of a combined cost-benefit analysis of local air pollution and global climate change, two subjects that are usually studied separately. Yet these distinct environmental problems are closely related, since they are both driven by the nature of present energy production and consumption patterns. Our study demonstrates the mutual relevance of, and interaction between, policies designed to address these two environmental challenges individually. Given the many dimensions air pollution control and climate change management have in common, it is surprising that they have only little been analyzed in combination so far. We attempt to cover at least part of the existing gap in the literature by assessing how costs and benefits of technologies and strategies that jointly tackle these two environmental problems can best be balanced. By using specific technological options that cut down local air pollution, e.g. related to particulate emissions, one may concurrently reduce CO2 emissions and thus contribute to diminishing global climate change. Inversely, some of the long-term climate change strategies simultaneously improve the quality of air in the short run. We have extended the well-established MERGE model by including emissions of particulate matter, and show that integrated environmental policies generate net global welfare benefits. We also demonstrate that the discounted benefits of local air pollution reduction significantly outweigh those of global climate change mitigation, at least by a factor of 2, but in most cases of our sensitivity analysis much more. Still, we do not argue to only restrict energy policy today to what should be our first priority, local air pollution control, and wait with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, we propose to design policies that simultaneously address these issues, as their combination creates an additional climate change bonus. As such, climate change mitigation proves an ancillary benefit of air pollution reduction, rather than the other way around.
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