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Green Energy Turbines


Incorporating health concerns in our decarbonization efforts can make ambitious climate mitigation policies more effective and feasible. While reducing the consumption of fossil fuels can reduce the amount of air pollutants emitted, certain mitigation efforts can also cause adverse health effects. Therefore, better understanding the key drivers of both health co-benefits and co-harms is essential to designing climate policies that address important health concerns.

The HEALED Project examines the key factors that impact the magnitude and distribution of health impacts of our decarbonization efforts, while also identifying possible pathways that optimize climate and health benefits given future uncertainty.

1. Sustainable Energy Transition

Figuring out how to meet our current and future energy needs, while also reducing our dependence on fossil fuels poses an important concern in our climate mitigation efforts. Renewable energy sources provide promising solutions to help reduce the potential energy, health, and climate burdens during this energy transition. The HEALED Project incorporates economic analysis and energy modeling methods to examine what types of infrastructure, technologies, and policy intervention are needed to make rapid decarbonization of our energy systems feasible.

2. Intersections Among Air Quality, Health, and Climate 

Intentional and well-coordinated action towards improving air quality and mitigating climate change can have meaningful and tangible impacts on our health and well-being.  However, there are many analytical and research challenges involved when monitoring air quality, such as the various spatial, environmental, and temporal variables that can impact the distribution of air pollutants and the complex role our local energy systems can have on air quality. HEALED combines key insights from air quality and health impact assessment models to better quantify the potential health effects of decarbonization and provide useful information on how the broader energy transition can impact both our climate and public health.

3. Policy-Relevant Research for Key Decision Makers

Policymakers are faced with the major responsibility of designing policy solutions that will have transformative impacts on our energy, human, and climate systems. Uncertainties about changes in demographic and socioeconomic patterns, energy pathways, and technology choices can act as potential roadblocks that hinder vital decision-making. Decision-relevant research offers an opportunity to incorporate insights from data science, energy system modeling, and air quality modeling to analyze a wide range of potential technology and policy pathways to see how our decarbonization efforts will impact air quality, health, and equity.

The HEALED Project builds a robust modeling framework through:

  • Representing key health drivers in GCAM-USA (a state-level integrated assessment model)

  • Connecting GCAM-USA it to a health impact assessment model

  • Testing this ensemble using a wide range of decarbonization scenarios.


Through this modeling ensemble, HEALED strives to help policymakers, researchers, and local agencies become equipped with the knowledge to make better informed decisions on how our policy choices can help us meet our most ambitious climate, energy, and equity goals.

4. Environmental Justice and Equity

While reducing consumption of fossil fuels can greatly reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions and level of premature deaths, the distribution of air pollution and climate impacts are not distributed equally. 

How we design our climate policies has the power to create more sustainable and equitable energy systems. The HEALED Project strives to better understand how certain climate mitigation efforts will either improve or further exacerbate inequalities in our energy systems and what specific metrics to use to better assess equity.

Featured Projects

Health Effects of Deep Decarbonization (HEALED): Understanding Key Determinants of for Health Co-Benefits and Co-Harms

Team Members: Wei Peng (Princeton), Vivek Srikrishnan (Cornell), Klaus Keller (Dartmouth), Xinyuan Huang and Jinyu Shiwang (Penn State)

Since many air pollutants are emitted from the same sources of greenhouse gas emissions, climate mitigation efforts can be an avenue to advance human health and well-being. With the advent of new technology choices and policy intervention, the HEALED Project studies which types of decarbonization actions lead to positive health benefits over time given future uncertainty. HEALED uses a robust and interdisciplinary modeling framework that represents how a wide range of factors, such as local technology pathways, cross-sectoral linkages, and changes in socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, impact the intensity and distribution of health co-benefits and co-harms.

DISES: Multi-Scale Modeling of Interactions Between Climate Change, Air Quality, and Social Inequalities

Team Members: Wei Peng (Princeton), Mark Budolfson (UT Austin), Noah Scovronick (Emory), Pengfei Wang (Princeton), Hui Yang (Penn State)

Climate policies have the ability to not only allow us to meet our most ambitious climate goals, but also improve air quality and advance public health. However,  it is not clear on how these environmental and health impacts from these policies will be distributed among different groups of people. This project aims to study how our climate policies can help us meet our ambitious climate targets, while also advancing equity through taking into account the complex and interconnected relationships between our human, social, and environmental systems. Through using advanced modeling tools and methods, the team will:

  1. Analyze how certain climate policies affect air quality and health

  2. Study how these health impacts vary among different groups of people

  3. Incorporate these new insights into climate policy models

State-Level Air Quality Implementation Plan

Team Members: Wei Peng (Princeton), Ken Davis (Penn State)

To meet our air quality standards, state agencies use state implementation plans to come up with reasonable emission reduction targets to meet air quality standards. These implementation plans are a result of advanced modeling tools that represent local atmospheric chemistry and weather conditions, which is why inaccurate modeling methods/tools can have detrimental effects on human and environmental health. A team of Penn State researchers are working on a $1 million project funded by NASA to improve the accuracy and quality of data used in numerical models used for state implementation plans.


To improve the accuracy of these models, Penn State researchers will incorporate NASA land surface data to better take into account instances of atmospheric mixing and turbulence. The team will compare the NASA modeling system with state models to see which models best represent these complex interactions between air pollutants and local geographic characteristics.

Baltimore Social-Environmental Collaborative

Team Members: Wei Peng (Princeton), Ken Davis and Gill-Ran Jeong (Penn State)

Urban environments face a wide variety of challenges, ranging from dangerous heat waves and high levels of air pollution, that can be further exacerbated by climate change. Led by Ken Davis at Penn State, the Baltimore Social-Environmental Collective is part of the U.S. Department of Energy Urban Integrated Field Program that focuses on better understanding how climate change will impact the built and natural environments of cities in the U.S.  Focusing their research in Baltimore, the team will focus on modeling the urban atmospheric boundary layer, which plays a crucial role in Earth’s overall climate and air quality, specifically focusing on how the urban environment affects this boundary and how it changes spatially.

Air Quality and Health Effects of Electric Vehicles

Team Members: Wei Peng (Princeton), Johannes Urpelainen (Johns Hopkins), Haicheng Dai (Peking University), Anjali Sharma (IIT Bombay)

Electric vehicles offer a viable opportunity to advance sustainability in the transportation sector. Focusing our research on two prominent EV markets, China and India, we will study under what specific characteristics yield co-benefits for public health and climate mitigation. The successful implementation of electric vehicles is dependent on:  

  1. Reducing the usage of fossil fuels to power these vehicles

  2. Building new infrastructure

  3. Changing consumer preferences.

Our modeling ensemble incorporates advanced modeling methods in emissions analysis, health impact assessment, and air quality modeling.  This modeling framework will then incorporate a wide variety of scenarios that represent changes in the electricity mix used for EVs, transportation infrastructure, and consumer preferences to better understand which circumstances yield positive changes in both climate mitigation and public health. 

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