A New Look at Causes and Effects of Pollution, From Production to Consumption
A new study in the journal PNAS looks at the relationship between production and exposure of pollution by considering people’s consumption of goods and services, reports Jonathan Lambert:
After accounting for population size differences, whites experience about 17 percent less air pollution than they produce, through consumption, while blacks and Hispanics bear 56 and 63 percent more air pollution, respectively, than they cause by their consumption, according to the study.
The researchers had to link data about where pollution is located, where and how it is produced, what products and services are related to those emissions, and who consumes those things. "To do that, the researchers actually worked backwards, following consumer spending to different sectors of the economy, and then ultimately to the main emitters of air pollution," says Lambert.
The findings show that the inequalities stem from levels of consumption and not types of consumption, according to researcher Christopher Tessum. "He suggests continuing to strive to make economic activity and consumption less polluting could be a way to manage and lessen the inequities," notes Lambert.