For publications earlier than 2019, view our publications archive.
| Mailloux, Nicholas A.; Abel, David W.; Holloway, Tracey; Patz, Jonathan A.: Nationwide and Regional PM2.5‐Related Air Quality Health Benefits From the Removal of Energy‐Related Emissions in the United States. In: GeoHealth, vol. 6, no. 5, pp. e2022GH000603, 2022. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Abstract Clean energy policy can provide substantial health benefits through improved air quality. As ambitious clean energy proposals are increasingly considered and adopted across the United States (US), quantifying the benefits of removal of such large air pollution emissions sources is crucial to understanding potential societal impacts of such policy. In this study, we estimate health benefits resulting from the elimination of emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides from the electric power, transportation, building, and industrial sectors in the contiguous US. We use EPA's CO-Benefits Risk Assessment screening tool to estimate health benefits resulting from the removal of PM2.5-related emissions from these energy-related sectors. We find that nationwide efforts to eliminate energy-related emissions could prevent 53,200 (95% CI: 46,900–59,400) premature deaths each year and provide $608 billion ($537–$678 billion) in benefits from avoided PM2.5-related illness and death. We also find that an average of 69% (range: 32%–95%) of the health benefits from emissions removal remain in the emitting region. Our study provides an indication of the potential scale and distribution of public health benefits that could result from ambitious regional and nationwide clean energy and climate mitigation policy.
| Simane, Belay; Kumie, Abera; Berhane, Kiros; Samet, Jonathan; Kjellstrom, Tord; Patz, Jonathan: Occupational Heat Stress in the Floriculture Industry of Ethiopia: Health Risks and Productivity Losses. In: Health, vol. 14, pp. 254-271, 2022. (Type: Journal Article | )|
| Reaser, Jamie K.; Hunt, Brooklin E.; Ruiz-Aravena, Manuel; Tabor, Gary M.; Patz, Jonathan A.; Becker, Daniel J.; Locke, Harvey; Hudson, Peter J.; Plowright, Raina K.: Fostering landscape immunity to protect human health: A science-based rationale for shifting conservation policy paradigms. In: Conservation Letters, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. e12869, 2022. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Abstract Anthropogenic land use change is a major driver of zoonotic pathogen spillover from wildlife to humans. According to the land use-induced spillover model, land use change alters environmental conditions that in turn alter the dynamics between zoonotic pathogens and their wildlife hosts. Thus, in response to the global spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the agent of COVID-19 disease), there have been renewed calls for landscape conservation as a disease preventive measure, including by the G7 Ministers responsible for Climate and the Environment. Landscape immunity, as a new construct, points to four paradigm shifts the world must favor to effectively mitigate pandemic risks. We provide a landscape immunity primer for policy makers and make the case for “world views” that place Homo sapiens within ecological systems, regard human health as an ecological service, prioritize investments in prevention, and apply ecological restoration to human health goals. Crisis is a conversation starter for reimagining and recommitting ourselves to what is most vital and generative. We urge world leaders to make the move to a nature-positive world.
| Sun, Zhongxiao; Scherer, Laura; Tukker, Arnold; Spawn-Lee, Seth A.; Bruckner, Martin; Gibbs, Holly K.; Behrens, Paul: Dietary change in high-income nations alone can lead to substantial double climate dividend. In: Nature Food, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 29-37, 2022, ISSN: 2662-1355. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
A dietary shift from animal-based foods to plant-based foods in high-income nations could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from direct agricultural production and increase carbon sequestration if resulting spared land was restored to its antecedent natural vegetation. We estimate this double effect by simulating the adoption of the EAT--Lancet planetary health diet by 54 high-income nations representing 68% of global gross domestic product and 17% of population. Our results show that such dietary change could reduce annual agricultural production emissions of high-income nations' diets by 61% while sequestering as much as 98.3 (55.6--143.7)thinspaceGtCO2 equivalent, equal to approximately 14 years of current global agricultural emissions until natural vegetation matures. This amount could potentially fulfil high-income nations' future sum of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) obligations under the principle of equal per capita CDR responsibilities. Linking land, food, climate and public health policy will be vital to harnessing the opportunities of a double climate dividend.
| Noon, Monica L.; Goldstein, Allie; Ledezma, Juan Carlos; Roehrdanz, Patrick R.; Cook-Patton, Susan C.; Spawn-Lee, Seth A.; Wright, Timothy Maxwell; Gonzalez-Roglich, Mariano; Hole, David G.; Rockström, Johan; Turner, Will R.: Mapping the irrecoverable carbon in Earth's ecosystems. In: Nature Sustainability, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 37-46, 2022, ISSN: 2398-9629. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Avoiding catastrophic climate change requires rapid decarbonization and improved ecosystem stewardship at a planetary scale. The carbon released through the burning of fossil fuels would take millennia to regenerate on Earth. Though the timeframe of carbon recovery for ecosystems such as peatlands, mangroves and old-growth forests is shorter (centuries), this timeframe still exceeds the time we have remaining to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. There are some natural places that we cannot afford to lose due to their irreplaceable carbon reserves. Here we map ‘irrecoverable carbon’ globally to identify ecosystem carbon that remains within human purview to manage and, if lost, could not be recovered by mid-century, by when we need to reach net-zero emissions to avoid the worst climate impacts. Since 2010, agriculture, logging and wildfire have caused emissions of at least 4.0 Gt of irrecoverable carbon. The world’s remaining 139.1 ± 443.6 Gt of irrecoverable carbon faces risks from land-use conversion and climate change. These risks can be reduced through proactive protection and adaptive management. Currently, 23.0% of irrecoverable carbon is within protected areas and 33.6% is managed by Indigenous peoples and local communities. Half of Earth’s irrecoverable carbon is concentrated on just 3.3% of its land, highlighting opportunities for targeted efforts to increase global climate security.
| Wang, Peidong; Holloway, Tracey; Bindl, Matilyn; Harkey, Monica; Smedt, Isabelle: Ambient Formaldehyde over the United States from Ground-Based (AQS) and Satellite (OMI) Observations. In: Remote Sensing, vol. 14, pp. 2191, 2022. (Type: Journal Article | )|
| Goldberg, D.; Harkey, M.; Foy, B.; Judd, L.; Johnson, J.; Yarwood, G.; Holloway, T.: Evaluating NOx emissions and their effect on O3 production in Texas using TROPOMI NO2 and HCHO. In: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, vol. 2022, pp. 1-33, 2022. (Type: Journal Article | )|
| Booth, Eric G.; Kucharik, Christopher J.: Data inaccessibility at sub-county scale limits implementation of manuresheds. In: Journal of Environmental Quality, vol. 51, no. 4, pp. 614-621, 2022. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Abstract The manureshed concept aims to rebalance surplus manure nutrients produced at animal feeding operations (sources) and the demands from nutrient-deficient croplands (sinks) to reduce negative environmental impacts and utilize nutrients more efficiently. Due to water quality implications, studies focused on this rebalancing have typically created domain boundaries that match a particular watershed. However, a majority of agricultural datasets that are used to inform these analyses—specifically, livestock populations—are only available at the county scale, which generally does not match watershed boundaries. The common method used to address this mismatch is to weight the county statistics based on the proportion of watershed area within the county. However, these straightforward assumptions imply that animal density is uniform across a county, which can be highly problematic, especially in an era of increasing concentration of livestock production on a smaller land area. We present a case study of the Lake Mendota watershed in south-central Wisconsin using both a typical county-based downscaled dataset as well as a more spatially explicit dataset of livestock counts from the Census of Agriculture that aggregates a set of zip codes that best matches the watershed boundary. This comparison reveals a substantial difference in estimated livestock numbers and their associated manure production that is due to a concentration of dairy operations within the watershed compared with the rest of the county. We argue that sub-county scale data need to become more available and integrated into nutrient and water quality management efforts so that manuresheds can be more effectively delineated and implemented.
| Schelly, Ian; Rausch, Lisa L.; Gibbs, Holly K.: Brazil’s Cattle Sector Played Large Role in Fires During 2020 Moratorium. In: Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, pp. 183, 2021. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
In response to global concern about recent fires, Brazil placed a 120-day moratorium on burning in the Amazon in 2020. We assessed how the cattle sector was linked to these fires by estimating the number of cattle properties involved with fires despite the moratorium, and their roles in cattle supply chains. We examined the land cover prior to the fire to identify instances of fires associated with recent deforestation. Our results show that the cattle sector contributed disproportionately to the fires in 2020, in terms of both the number of properties involved and the area burned. Improvements in both supply chain policies and overall environmental governance in the Amazon are likely needed to avoid recurrences of the catastrophic scale of fires during the 2020 season.
| Spawn-Lee, Seth A; Lark, Tyler J; Gibbs, Holly K; Houghton, Richard A; Kucharik, Christopher J; Malins, Chris; Pelton, Rylie E O; Robertson, G Philip: Comment on `Carbon Intensity of corn ethanol in the United States: state of the science'. In: Environmental Research Letters, vol. 16, no. 11, pp. 118001, 2021. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
In their recent contribution, Scully et al (2021 Environ. Res. Lett. 16 043001) review and revise past life cycle assessments of corn-grain ethanol’s carbon (C) intensity to suggest that a current ‘central best estimate’ is considerably less than all prior estimates. Their conclusion emerges from selection and recombination of sector-specific greenhouse gas emission predictions from disparate studies in a way that disproportionately favors small values and optimistic assumptions without rigorous justification nor empirical support. Their revisions most profoundly reduce predicted land use change (LUC) emissions, for which they propose a central estimate that is roughly half the smallest comparable value they review (figure 1). This LUC estimate represents the midpoint of (a) values retained after filtering the predictions of past studies based on a set of unfounded criteria; and (b) a new estimate they generate for domestic (i.e. U.S.) LUC emissions. The filter the authors apply endorses a singular means of LUC assessment which they assert as the ‘best practice’ despite a recent unacknowledged review (Malins et al 2020 J. Clean. Prod. 258 120716) that shows this method almost certainly underestimates LUC. Moreover, their domestic C intensity estimate surprisingly suggests that cropland expansion newly sequesters soil C, counter to ecological theory and empirical evidence. These issues, among others, prove to grossly underestimate the C intensity of corn-grain ethanol and mischaracterize the state of our science at the risk of perversely affecting policy outcomes.
| Pelton, Rylie E O; Spawn-Lee, Seth A; Lark, Tyler J; Kim, Taegon; Springer, Nathaniel; Hawthorne, Peter; Ray, Deepak K; Schmitt, Jennifer: Land use leverage points to reduce GHG emissions in U.S. agricultural supply chains. In: Environmental Research Letters, vol. 16, no. 11, pp. 115002, 2021. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Recognizing the substantial threats climate change poses to agricultural supply chains, companies around the world are committing to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Recent modeling advances have increased the transparency of meat and ethanol industry supply chains, where conventional production practices and associated environmental impacts have been characterized and linked to downstream points of demand. Yet, to date, information and efforts have neglected both the spatial variability of production impacts and land use changes (LUCs) across highly heterogeneous agricultural landscapes. Developing effective mitigation programs and policies requires understanding these spatially-explicit hotspots for targeting GHG mitigation efforts and the links to downstream supply chain actors. Here we integrate, for the first time, spatial estimates of county-scale production practices and observations of direct LUC into company and industry-specific supply chains of beef, pork, chicken, ethanol, soy oil and wheat flour in the U.S., thereby conceptually changing our understanding of the sources, magnitudes and influencers of agricultural GHG emissions. We find that accounting for LUC can increase estimated feedstock emissions per unit of production by a factor of 2- to 5-times that of traditionally used estimates. Substantial variation across companies, sectors, and production regions reveal key opportunities to improve GHG footprints by reducing land conversion within their supply chains.
| Diluiso, Francesca; et al,: Coal transitions—part 1: a systematic map and review of case study learnings from regional, national, and local coal phase-out experiences. In: Environmental Research Letters, vol. 16, no. 11, pp. 113003, 2021, (authors include Nemet). (Type: Journal Article | | )|
A rapid coal phase-out is needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, but is hindered by serious challenges ranging from vested interests to the risks of social disruption. To understand how to organize a global coal phase-out, it is crucial to go beyond cost-effective climate mitigation scenarios and learn from the experience of previous coal transitions. Despite the relevance of the topic, evidence remains fragmented throughout different research fields, and not easily accessible. To address this gap, this paper provides a systematic map and comprehensive review of the literature on historical coal transitions. We use computer-assisted systematic mapping and review methods to chart and evaluate the available evidence on historical declines in coal production and consumption. We extracted a dataset of 278 case studies from 194 publications, covering coal transitions in 44 countries and ranging from the end of the 19th century until 2021. We find a relatively recent and rapidly expanding body of literature reflecting the growing importance of an early coal phase-out in scientific and political debates. Previous evidence has primarily focused on the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany, while other countries that experienced large coal declines, like those in Eastern Europe, are strongly underrepresented. An increasing number of studies, mostly published in the last 5 years, has been focusing on China. Most of the countries successfully reducing coal dependency have undergone both demand-side and supply-side transitions. This supports the use of policy approaches targeting both demand and supply to achieve a complete coal phase-out. From a political economy perspective, our dataset highlights that most transitions are driven by rising production costs for coal, falling prices for alternative energies, or local environmental concerns, especially regarding air pollution. The main challenges for coal-dependent regions are structural change transformations, in particular for industry and labor. Rising unemployment is the most largely documented outcome in the sample. Policymakers at multiple levels are instrumental in facilitating coal transitions. They rely mainly on regulatory instruments to foster the transitions and compensation schemes or investment plans to deal with their transformative processes. Even though many models suggest that coal phase-outs are among the low-hanging fruits on the way to climate neutrality and meeting the international climate goals, our case studies analysis highlights the intricate political economy at work that needs to be addressed through well-designed and just policies.
| Nemet, Gregory F.: Improving the crystal ball. In: Nature Energy, vol. 6, no. 9, pp. 860-861, 2021, ISSN: 2058-7546. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Understanding future costs of energy technologies is crucial for making good decisions about the energy transition. A new paper shows that some types of forecasts have done better than others.
| Holloway, Tracey; Bratburd, Jennifer: The Four Things to Know about Satellite Data for Air Quality Management. In: Environmental Manager (EM) Magazine, 2021. (Type: Journal Article | )|
|Z. Burivalova,; Hart, S. J.; Radeloff, V. C.; Srinivasan, U.: Early warning sign of forest loss in protected areas. In: Current Biology, 2021. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
As humanity is facing the double challenge of species extinctions and climate change, designating parts of forests as protected areas is a key conservation strategy.1, 2, 3, 4 Protected areas, encompassing 14.9% of the Earth’s land surface and 19% of global forests, can prevent forest loss but do not do so perfectly everywhere.5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 The reasons why protection only works in some areas are difficult to generalize: older and newer parks, protected areas with higher and lower suitability for agriculture, and more and less strict protection can be more effective at preventing forest loss than their counterparts.6,8,9,12, 13, 14, 15, 16 Yet predicting future forest loss within protected areas is crucial to proactive conservation. Here, we identify an early warning sign of subsequent forest loss, based on forest loss patterns in strict protected areas and their surrounding landscape worldwide, from 2000 to 2018.17,18 We found that a low level in the absolute forest cover immediately outside of a protected area signals a high risk of future forest loss inside the protected area itself. When the amount of forest left outside drops to <20%, the protected area is likely to experience rates of forest loss matching those in the wider landscape, regardless of its protection status (e.g., 5% loss outside will be matched by 5% loss inside). This knowledge could be used to direct funding to protected areas threatened by imminent forest loss, helping to proactively bolster protection to prevent forest loss, especially in countries where detailed information is lacking.
| Holloway, T.; Miller, D.; Anenberg, S.; Diao, M.; Duncan, B.; Fiore, A. M.; Henze, D. K.; Hess, J.; Kinney, P. L.; Liu, Y.; Neu, J. L.; O'Neill, S. M.; Odman, M. Talat; Pierce, R. B.; Russell, A. G.; Tong, D.; West, J. J.; Zondlo, M. A.: Satellite Monitoring for Air Quality and Health. In: Annual Review of Biomedical Data Science, vol. 4, pp. 417-447, 2021. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Data from satellite instruments provide estimates of gas and particle levels relevant to human health, even pollutants invisible to the human eye. However, the successful interpretation of satellite data requires an understanding of how satellites relate to other data sources, as well as factors affecting their application to health challenges. Drawing from the expertise and experience of the 2016–2020 NASA HAQAST (Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team), we present a review of satellite data for air quality and health applications. We include a discussion of satellite data for epidemiological studies and health impact assessments, as well as the use of satellite data to evaluate air quality trends, support air quality regulation, characterize smoke from wildfires, and quantify emission sources. The primary advantage of satellite data compared to in situ measurements, e.g., from air quality monitoring stations, is their spatial coverage. Satellite data can reveal where pollution levels are highest around the world, how levels have changed over daily to decadal periods, and where pollutants are transported from urban to global scales. To date, air quality and health applications have primarily utilized satellite observations and satellite-derived products relevant to near-surface particulate matter <2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Health and air quality communities have grown increasingly engaged in the use of satellite data, and this trend is expected to continue. From health researchers to air quality managers, and from global applications to community impacts, satellite data are transforming the way air pollution exposure is evaluated.
| Patz, Jonathan A.; Siri, José G.: Toward Urban Planetary Health Solutions to Climate Change and Other Modern Crises. In: Journal of Urban Health, vol. 98, no. 3, pp. 311-314, 2021, ISSN: 1468-2869. (Type: Journal Article | )|
| Edwards, Morgan R.; Giang, Amanda; Macey, Gregg P.; Magavi, Zeyneb; Nicholas, Dominic; Ackley, Robert; Schulman, Audrey: Repair Failures Call for New Policies to Tackle Leaky Natural Gas Distribution Systems. In: Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 55, no. 10, pp. 6561-6570, 2021, ISSN: 0013-936X. (Type: Journal Article | )|
| Zhang, Xuesong; Lark, Tyler J; Clark, Christopher M; Yuan, Yongping; LeDuc, Stephen D: Grassland-to-cropland conversion increased soil, nutrient, and carbon losses in the US Midwest between 2008 and 2016. In: Environmental Research Letters, vol. 16, no. 5, pp. 054018, 2021. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
After decades of declining cropland area, the United States (US) experienced a reversal in land use/land cover change in recent years, with substantial grassland conversion to cropland in the US Midwest. Although previous studies estimated soil carbon (C) loss due to cropland expansion, other important environmental indicators, such as soil erosion and nutrient loss, remain largely unquantified. Here, we simulated the environmental impacts from the conversion of grassland to corn and soybeans for 12 US Midwestern states using the EPIC (Environmental Policy Integrated Climate) model. Between 2008 and 2016, over 2 Mha of grassland were converted to crop production in these states, with much less cropland concomitantly abandoned or retired from production. The net grassland-cropland conversion increased annual soil erosion by 7.9%, nitrogen (N) loss by 3.7%, and soil organic carbon loss by 5.6% relative to that of existing cropland, despite an associated increase in cropland area of only 2.5%. Notably, the above estimates represent the scenario of converting unmanaged grassland to tilled corn and soybeans, and impacts varied depending upon crop type and tillage regime. Corn and soybeans are dominant biofuel feedstocks, yet the grassland conversion and subsequent environmental impacts simulated in this study are likely not attributable solely to biofuel-driven land use change since other factors also contribute to corn and soybean prices and land use decisions. Nevertheless, our results suggest grassland conversion in the Upper Midwest has resulted in substantial degradation of soil quality, with implications for air and water quality as well. Additional conservation measures are likely necessary to counterbalance the impacts, particularly in areas with high rates of grassland conversion (e.g. the Dakotas, southern Iowa).
| Smith, Matthew R; Stull, Valerie J; Patz, Jonathan A; Myers, Samuel S: Nutritional and environmental benefits of increasing insect consumption in Africa and Asia. In: Environmental Research Letters, vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 065001, 2021. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Most global dietary forecasts predict a reduction in nutritional deficiencies over the next several decades driven by significant increases in environmentally unsustainable livestock and animal source food consumption. Here, we explore a more environmentally sensitive alternative to improve global nutrition, consuming insects. Our study focuses on Africa and Asia, two continents with a history of eating insects and high rates of nutritional deficiency. We model the impact of adding modest amounts (2.5, 5 and 10 g per day, dry weight) of regionally appropriate and farmable species on total nutrient intake and population-wide risk of deficiency for specific nutrients of concern: protein, zinc, folate, and vitamin B12. We also estimate the total potential change in dietary iron. Five grams per day of insect consumption could alleviate a considerable amount of risk of nutritional deficiency: 67 million (95% uncertainty interval: 49–84 million) fewer people at risk of protein deficiency, 166 million (120–220 million) fewer people at risk of zinc deficiency, 237 million (120–439 million) fewer people at risk of folate deficiency, and 251 million (28–2271) fewer people at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. For iron, per capita supplies could increase by 3% (0.8%–6.0%) with insects, and even more so for vulnerable groups in countries currently suffering severe rates of anemia: 4.2% (0.5%–8.8%) for women of childbearing age and 4.1% (0.4%–10.0%) for children under 5. Doubling or halving insect intake per capita causes the benefits for nutritional deficiency risk to roughly double or halve accordingly. Effects are most pronounced in South and Central Asia, though sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, and Southeast Asia also see considerable reduction in nutritional risk. These results demonstrate the potential for insects to fill a crucial role in providing nutrition for these populous and rapidly developing regions while safeguarding the global environment.