Ambient air pollution increases carbon emissions, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.
Researchers at the National University of Singapore examined utility meter readings from 130,000 households, a one in ten random sample of all households in Singapore.
They examined each household’s energy consumption over time and compared it with particulate matter (PM2.5) measurements from the country’s air pollution monitoring network.
This analysis revealed that overall, electricity demand grew by 1.1% when PM2.5 rose by 10 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m³).
The researchers have identified two likely reasons for this: increased air pollution means that households are more likely to stay indoors and high levels of pollution also encourages households to close their windows and run their air conditioners and air purifiers instead.
Alberto Salvo, associate professor and lead author of the study said: ‘Urban areas in developing Asian nations are home to an expanding base of energy consumers, with energy supply likely to remain carbon-intensive for decades in the absence of major technological or regulatory shifts.
‘Understanding what drives energy demand across the socioeconomic distribution of Singapore households can provide insight into the future energy demand of urban populations in the region’s cities as incomes rise. This is important for policymakers when forecasting and influencing future emissions paths in the context of climate change.
‘This study shows that households care about the quality of the air that they breathe, revealed through their spending on utilities, in particular, to power air-conditioners. Cleaner urban air will reduce energy demand, as households engage in less defensive behaviour, and this helps to mitigate carbon emissions.
‘Overall, this research can contribute towards longer-term forecasting of energy demand as developing Asian countries face the twin issues of a rising urban middle class exposed to air pollution, and the need to cope with climate change.’
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