Qasim Mehdi: How Much Environmental Justice is Achieved if US Decarbonizes its Electric Grid
From Paul Van Vleet
Qasim Mehdi: Post Doctoral Candidate
This paper examines the impact of decarbonization of the US electric grid on air quality and assesses how the health benefits of better air quality will be distributed among people of different ages and races. This work was done for the contiguous US at the county level. These benefits are estimated through three regulatory-grade models: Integrated Planning Model (IPM), Community Multiscale Air Quality Modeling System (CMAQ), and Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP). Air quality improvements and health gains (premature deaths avoided) are reported for the years 2030, 2040, and 2050. Most of the PM2.5 and O3 reductions are concentrated in the Western US. Black communities experience the largest improvement in air quality compared to all other races. For health benefits, we find that Whites have the largest benefits in terms of absolute numbers, but when appropriate race-specific mortality incidence rates are used and population-weighted race-age decomposition is carried out, Black have 20% larger gains compared to White in age group 25-74. Moreover, when premature deaths averted are converted to life years, we find that disparity in health benefits between age groups is sharply reduced. Blacks end up having 21% larger share of health benefits if life-years estimation is used. Age-race decomposition analysis for decarbonization of US electric grid suggests improvement in environmental justice. The finding from this paper can help policymakers understand how health disparities reduce with respect to age and race due to decarbonization.