Informing Sustainability Planning in China and Beyond

Noelle Selin, IDSS and Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Valerie Karplus, Sloan School of Management

Chinese woman in mask

Selin and Karplus integrated economic and environmental modeling and empirical social science techniques to study the effects of energy and climate policies in China, both target and non-target effects (such as air quality and health). They quantified how energy and carbon intensity policies in China have altered energy use and energy-linked emissions like carbon dioxide and air pollutants. Then they implemented parameters derived from the empirical analysis of co-benefits in an economic model with energy system detail to improve assessments of air quality-related health impacts to 2030. Lastly, they used an atmospheric chemistry and transport model to calculate projected air pollution and health impacts to 2030 based on data constraints.

They found that by meeting its greenhouse gas-reduction goals, China would improve its air quality. This would avoid a significant number of deaths due to air pollution. Fewer deaths from air pollution means a benefit for society that can be quantified as a $339 billion savings in 2030.

This collaboration between Selin’s group in IDSS and Karplus’ group at Sloan combined Karplus’s expertise in Chinese energy policy, economic modeling,
and econometric methods and approaches with Selin’s expertise in air quality modeling and analysis.

The funding supported Social & Engineering Systems (SES) student Minghao Qiu, as well as fees associated with the Svante computational cluster for quantitative modeling.

The study has been published in Nature Climate Change‘ and written about by MIT News.

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