Air Pollution

Emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases (LLGHGs) like carbon dioxide are the main drivers of anthropogenic climate change, but emissions of other short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) also impact global and regional climate. We are working to understand the role that SLCPs play in the coupled climate-human system. These pollutants (including compounds like aerosol particulate matter of different types and sizes, as well as tropospheric ozone and its precursors) are emitted in different combinations, they evolve in the atmosphere, and have a wide range of impacts on the general climate circulation, as well as people and plants. On the policy side, synergies between local air quality impacts and broader climate objectives may be especially important to achieving regional and global cooperation on environmental stewardship.

Work with Project Surya helped illustrate that biomass-based cooking in traditional cookstoves is a large contributor of short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) emissions and concentrations, and that many so-called improved cookstoves are not (ES&T 2012). This led to work showing that carbon markets for such projects should take into account SLCP emissions as well as emissions of carbon dioxide, but that uncertainty surrounding the net climate impacts of SLCPs makes this a difficult task (ERL 2015). We've shown that air pollution in India over the past three decades has led to relative yield loss for wheat of more than a third, illustrating that cleaning up the air could have dramatic and under-appreciated food security impacts (PNAS 2014). We have an emissions lab in the SERF building to better constrain emissions factors.


Current Projects:

  • Air pollution impacts of the United States' natural gas transition
  • Impact of stratospheric aerosols on global crop production (Jon Proctor, Sol Hsiang, Marshall Burke, Wolfram Schlenker)
  • Air pollution impacts on child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa (Sam Heft-Neal, Marshall Burke, Eran Bendavid)
  • Statistically robust carbon accounting from traditional and improved cookstoves
  • Relationship between indoor and outdoor air pollution
  • Spatiotemporal patterns of SLCP and LLGHG co-emissions