Past Event

Air Pollution Disparities and Equality Assessments

November 15, 2023
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
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Faculty House (Presidential Ballroom), Columbia University, New York

Event Description

Energy transitions and decarbonization require rapid changes to a nation’s electricity generation mix. There are many feasible decarbonization pathways for the electricity sector, yet there is vast uncertainty about how these pathways will advance or derail the nation’s energy equality goals. We present a framework for investigating how decarbonization pathways, driven by a least-cost paradigm, will impact air pollution inequality across vulnerable groups (e.g., low-income, minorities) in the United States. We find that if no decarbonization policies are implemented, Black and high-poverty communities may be burdened with 0.19–0.22 μg/m3 higher PM2.5 concentrations than the national average during the energy transition. National mandates requiring more than 80% deployment of renewable or low-carbon technologies achieve equality of air pollution concentrations across all demographic groups. Thus, if least-cost optimization capacity expansion models remain the dominant decision-making paradigm, strict low-carbon or renewable energy technology mandates will have the greatest likelihood of achieving national distributional energy equality. Decarbonization is essential to achieving climate goals, but myopic decarbonization policies that ignore co-pollutants may leave Black and high-poverty communities up to 26–34% higher PM2.5 exposure than national averages over the energy transition.

Event Information

Free and open to the public; registration required. For more information, please email [email protected]. Please visit the Faculty House website for directions.

Hosted by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.