2016 Progress Report: Project 5: Projecting and Quantifying Future Changes in Socioeconomic Drivers of Air Pollution and its Health-Related Impacts

EPA Grant Number: R835872C005
Subproject: this is subproject number 005 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R835872
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Regional Air Pollution Mixtures
Center Director: Koutrakis, Petros
Title: Project 5: Projecting and Quantifying Future Changes in Socioeconomic Drivers of Air Pollution and its Health-Related Impacts
Investigators: Selin, Noelle Eckley , Barrett, Steven , Reilly, John , Solomon, Susan
Institution: Harvard University , Massachusetts Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Keating, Terry
Project Period: December 1, 2015 through November 30, 2020
Project Period Covered by this Report: December 1, 2015 through November 30,2016
RFA: Air, Climate And Energy (ACE) Centers: Science Supporting Solutions (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air , Climate Change , Urban Air Toxics , Mercury , Air Quality and Air Toxics , Airborne Particulate Matter Health Effects , Air Toxics , Particulate Matter


Project 5 investigates future changes in regional air pollution characteristics as a result of technological and societal changes. We will quantify the future implications of technologies and efficiency improvements in the energy and transportation sectors on regional differences in air pollution impacts. Selected case studies assess, inter alia, the environmental and health benefits of choices in state and regional carbon policy implementation relevant to recently proposed carbon dioxide emission reductions from the energy sector. We will examine the health-related benefits of reducing concentrations of ozone and particulate matter, as well as changing regional air pollution mixtures including air toxics.

Progress Summary:

We began conducting an ensemble simulation with the MIT Integrated Global Systems Model linked to the Community Atmosphere Model (IGSM-CAM), using meteorological fields to drive the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model. We examined the effect of changing air pollutant emissions on the so-called “climate penalty” (or benefit, where climate change leads to increased/decreased pollutant concentrations, respectively). While much previous research has examined the impact of changing temperature, precipitation, and other meteorological conditions on concentrations of O3 and PM2.5 over the U.S., much of this work has been conducted while holding anthropogenic emissions constant. However, changes in anthropogenic emissions may affect the magnitude and/or distribution of climate benefits or penalties. We estimate the sensitivity of this effect by adjusting U.S. air pollutant precursor (non-GHG) emissions by a fixed factor and calculating the resulting “climate penalty” by the end of the century (2091-2110). Preliminary results show that decreasing U.S. emissions could have an additional impact on reducing the “climate penalty” on O3, resulting in up to an additional 20% ozone decrease beyond immediate reductions by the end of the century. However, this result differs spatially across U.S. regions for both O3 and PM2.5. Our results suggest that U.S. emissions controls could have an additional and previously unquantified benefit in reducing projected climate penalties. This work addresses Objective 5 (Identify the importance of climate change to the formulation of robust strategies for mitigating health and environmental impacts), as well as advances development of our integrated air quality-health framework. We presented this work at the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting (Feng et al., 2016) and are currently preparing a draft for submission.

Using an adjoint sensitivity approach, we quantified how recent changes in atmospheric composition (a 55% decrease in SO2 and a 30% decrease in NOx over the U.S. between 2005 and 2011) affected the atmosphere’s marginal response to emissions, and their corresponding human health impacts. The calculated sensitivities quantify how PM2.5 health impacts are affected by perturbations in the emissions in the atmosphere, and can be used to attribute health impacts to emissions sector, species, location and time. We find that US exposure sensitivities to SO2 emissions decrease between 2005 and 2011. This implies a reduced marginal air quality benefit of reducing SO2 emissions between the two years. Sensitivities to NOx emissions are increasing over the same period, due to the increased availability of free ammonia in the atmosphere, thus making NOx reduction efforts more impactful. In a policy context, these sensitivities provide a way of optimizing emissions reductions to improve air quality and minimize population exposure at a national, state or local level. This work partially addresses Objective 4 (Assess how human exposure and impacts from different pollutants and mixtures may shift over time) and establishes the baseline for our work under Objective 3 (Characterize state- and regional-level carbon policy implementation measures with respect to their air pollution health co-benefits). We presented this work at the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting (Dedoussi and Barrett, 2016) and are currently preparing a draft for submission.

Future Activities:

In the current reporting period, we plan to further develop our integrated methodology (Objective 1), and conduct work with climate ensembles relevant to Objective 5. We will conduct initial economic analyses relevant to Objectives 2 and 3, reviewing our previous work on co-benefits and identifying driving economic variables. Based on the availability and interests of newly-hired project personnel with substantial expertise in climate (postdoctoral associate working with Selin and Solomon), we will move our work on Objective 5 forward and begin it in Year 2; to compensate for this, we anticipate that some of the economic model development originally planned for Year 2 will occur early in Year 3. However, as neither of these objectives relies on the other, we do not anticipate that this results in any substantial changes to our planned work overall over the duration of the grant.

Journal Articles on this Report : 4 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other subproject views: All 6 publications 4 publications in selected types All 4 journal articles
Other center views: All 60 publications 51 publications in selected types All 51 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Bobb JF, Ho KKL, Yeh RW, Harrington L, Zai A, Liao KP, Dominici F. Time-Course of Cause-Specific Hospital Admissions During Snowstorms: An Analysis of Electronic Medical Records From Major Hospitals in Boston, Massachusetts. American Journal of Epidemiology 2017;185(4):283-294. R835872 (2016)
R835872C005 (2016)
  • Full-text from PubMed
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Associated PubMed link
  • Full-text: AJE-Full Text HTML
  • Other: AJE-Full Text PDF
  • Journal Article Makar M, Antonelli J, Di Q, Cutler D, Schwartz J, Dominici F. Estimating the Causal Effect of Low Levels of Fine Particulate Matter on Hospitalization. Epidemiology 2017;28(5):627-634. R835872 (2016)
    R835872C005 (2016)
  • Full-text from PubMed
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Associated PubMed link
  • Full-text: Harvard-Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: Ovid-Abstract
  • Journal Article Requia WJ, Adams MD, Arain A, Koutrakis P, Ferguson M. Carbon dioxide emissions of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles: a life-cycle analysis in eight Canadian cities. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 2017;78:1390-1396. R835872 (2016)
    R835872C005 (2016)
    R834798 (Final)
  • Full-text: ScienceDirect-Full Text HTML
  • Abstract: ScienceDirect-Abstract
  • Other: ScienceDirect-Full Text PDF
  • Journal Article Antonelli, J., Zigler, C., and Dominici, F. (2017). Guided Bayesian Imputation to Adjust for Confounding when Combining Heterogeneous Data Sources in Comparative Effectiveness Research. Biostatistics 1–16 doi:10.1093/biostatistics/kxx003, 1-16. R835872C005 (2016)
    not available

    Supplemental Keywords:

    PM2.5, complex step method, greenhouse gas, computable general equilibrium, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs

    Relevant Websites:

    MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change Exit highlights recent work from across our research program, and links to the web sites of individual PIs. In particular, a recent media release highlighted this year’s AGU Fall Meeting presentations. In addition, the Harvard/MIT ACE Center website, Air, Climate & Energy Center Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2017

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R835872    Regional Air Pollution Mixtures

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R835872C001 Project 1: Regional Air Pollution Mixtures: The Past and Future Impacts of Emission Controls and Climate Change on Air Quality and Health
    R835872C002 Project 2: Air Pollutant Mixtures in Eastern Massachusetts: Spatial Multi-resolution Analysis of Trends, Effects of Modifiable Factors, Climate and Particle-induced Mortality
    R835872C003 Project 3: Causal Estimates of Effects of Regional and National Pollution Mixtures on Health: Providing Tools for Policy Makers
    R835872C004 A Causal Inference Framework to Support Policy Decisions by Evaluating the Effectiveness of Past Air Pollution Control Strategies for the Entire United States
    R835872C005 Project 5: Projecting and Quantifying Future Changes in Socioeconomic Drivers of Air Pollution and its Health-Related Impacts