airpollution

airpollution - Air Pollution in Cities Matthew E. Kahn...

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1 Air Pollution in Cities Matthew E. Kahn Tufts University January 25, 2005 Contact Author Matthew E. Kahn Fletcher School Tufts University Medford, MA 02155 Matt.kahn@tufts.edu
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2 I. Introduction Some cities face severe air pollution problems while other cities of similar population sizes are much cleaner. For example, World Bank data from 1995 indicates that for a sample of major cities where air quality was monitored, the average Asian city’s ambient particulate level was four times higher than the average city in Western Europe. In the year 1995, there were at least 25 cities in Asia whose ambient particulate levels exceeded three times the World Health Organization’s annual particulate standard of 90 micrograms per cubic meter. Urban air pollution can significantly degrade quality of life. In polluted cities, time spent outside is dangerous to one’s health. Such cities may have trouble attracting footloose high tech firms and their amenity seeking workers to locate there. A mayor of such a city might wonder; how did this city become so polluted? What cost effective regulations could be enacted to clean up the city? How much would people be willing to pay to reduce local pollution? This chapter seeks to examine each of these issues by focusing on the supply and demand for urban air pollution. There are numerous examples of polluted cities, such as Los Angeles, Krakow and Pittsburgh, that have made dramatic pollution progress. There are other cities whose pollution levels are increasing or are only slowly improving. This diversity of experiences means that researchers can test hypotheses concerning what drives urban air pollution and can investigate what policies effectively mitigate urban air pollution. A challenge in making progress in understanding the causes and consequences of urban air pollution is that it really requires an interdisciplinary research team. Public health experts focus on measuring the health impacts of air pollution exposure.
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3 Atmospheric chemists examine how ambient air pollution is affected by urban emissions increases. Engineers focus on what are the set of feasible technologies that can be used to mitigate a pollution problem. Economists bring two major tools to help study this interdisciplinary policy issue. First, our insistence that incentives play a key role in achieving polluter accountability leads us to focus on certain key details of policy design. Second, our training in empirical hypothesis testing gives us a leg up over other researchers in establishing the likely causal effects of regulatory interventions. II. The Supply of Urban Air Pollution Since cities are highly populated dense areas, it should not be surprising that most cities suffer from air pollution problems. One person who smokes, or drives a dirty car and one smoke belching factory will have little impact on overall ambient air quality but when millions of drivers and thousands of firms each emit pollution in a small geographic area, an unintended consequence is high levels of ambient pollution. It is unlikely that
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airpollution - Air Pollution in Cities Matthew E. Kahn...

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