Rebecca Saari examines co-benefits of climate policy

Monday, November 28, 2016

Through her research, IC3 member Rebecca Saari is providing the public with information that can lead to real, observable change. With a broad scope of interests ranging from air pollution, greenhouse gases, and trade to environmental inequality, she is doing her part in the fight against climate change.

Rebecca Saari.
Rebecca completed her PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after working at Environment and Climate Change Canada as an Air Issues Scientist. She came to Waterloo in September 2015 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Through her work on modelling the health impacts of climate policy, she is satisfying her academic curiosity while continuously learning.

In Rebecca’s 2015 study, Impacts of climate change and benefits of climate policy for U.S. air quality and health, she examined co-benefits: the benefits that result when changes in policy positively affect areas beyond those that were originally targeted. For example, climate policy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions (also known as mitigation) can improve air quality and thus create health benefits. A more specific example is that although Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy and cap-and-trade programs target greenhouse gas reduction, as Rebecca’s work has shown for similar policies, they can also yield significant co-benefits by reducing air pollution.

In her work to date, Rebecca has found that the health benefits of climate policies can outweigh the costs of implementing them. While the majority of Rebecca’s studies thus far have focused on the United States, they yield insights that will be relevant to Canadian policymakers as they grapple with similar questions. She is aiming to conduct similar research in a Canadian context in the future.

Understanding the phenomenon of co-benefits is advantageous to policymakers who can use it to support and inform the implementation of climate policy; it can generally inform sustainable decision making by illuminating the linkages between policies and quantifying unintended consequences. With this understanding, policymakers can make changes that make sense for both our climate and our health.

Are you interested in climate modelling to support sustainable decision-making? Do you want to learn more about Rebecca’s work? Visit Rebecca’s website, Saari Air Lab, or connect with her on Twitter.

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