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Assessing Air Quality and Public Health Benefits of New York City’s Climate Action Plans

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journal contribution
posted on 30.07.2020 by Sarah Johnson, Jay Haney, Lia Cairone, Christopher Huskey, Iyad Kheirbek
Strategies that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions may also provide significant public health benefits and their estimation can help prioritize the case for climate change mitigation policies. In 2014, New York City (NYC) committed to reduce GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 (80 × 50). In this analysis we quantified the air quality-related public health benefits of the policies outlined in the 80 × 50 strategy, compared sector-specific (buildings, energy, transportation) policy impacts, and assessed variations in benefits across NYC neighborhoods. We applied air quality modeling and health impact assessment tools to estimate expected changes in ambient PM2.5 and related health outcomes by Zip Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTA). Full implementation of 80 × 50 strategies would reduce PM2.5 (fine particulates) concentrations across NYC ZCTAs by 7% (3%, 10%) (ZCTA median, 10th, 90th percentile), avoiding between 160 and 390 premature deaths and 460 hospitalizations and emergency department visits for respiratory and cardiovascular disease each year, valued at $3.4 billion annually. Across all the policy scenarios we estimated 10 times more avoided asthma emergency department visits in low-income neighborhoods as compared to the wealthiest neighborhoods even though median declines in ambient PM2.5 were similar. Consideration of public health benefits helps to prioritize climate policy implementation and identify priority neighborhoods.