SEMINAR: Using discrete choice analysis to understand public perceptions of tradeoffs in climate and conventional air pollution
Despite scientific agreement on the need to reduce power sector emissions—both to meet climate mitigation goals and to ameliorate the burden of health effects from conventional air pollutants—there is less understanding of the public’s willingness to support tradeoffs in cost to accept these policy objectives. In this work, we employ the use of discrete choice experiments (DCEs) to assess how individuals make tradeoffs between climate, health, and economic consequences when evaluating electricity generation scenarios. Individuals recruited to participate in these DCEs choose between different combinations of electricity generation portfolio, monthly electricity bill, and carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions levels. After observing individuals’ choices over various combinations of attributes, we use a mixed logit, random utility model to estimate their preferences for tradeoffs across the given attributes.
We administer two distinct but related DCE-based surveys in the U.S. (N=822) and China (N=1056) to characterize respondents’ preferences for emissions reductions and the economic tradeoffs they imply, as well as how those preferences are shaped by emissions information and air quality levels. We find that respondents respond more favorably to portfolios that address both climate and health aspects, both in terms of probability of support and willingness to pay levels. While U.S. respondents seem to favor climate and health interventions equally, Chinese respondents exhibit stronger preferences for addressing conventional air pollutants, the strength of which is correlated with air quality levels on the day respondents take survey. These results suggest the importance of communicating both climate and health benefits of emissions interventions to garner additional public support for clean energy initiatives.
Ph.D. Student, Engineering & Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
Brian Sergi is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Engineering & Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. His research evaluates tradeoffs in energy policy decision-making, with a current focus on how those tradeoffs are perceived and valued by the public. Prior to coming to Carnegie Mellon, Brian was a policy fellow at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), a federally funded research and development center that conducts policy analysis for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and other federal sponsors. While at STPI, Brian helped to produce the 2014 National Plan for Civil Earth Observations and worked on projects exploring commercialization and technology transfer initiatives at the Department of Energy. He also spent a summer as a research fellow at the Breakthrough Institute, looking at policies for fostering advanced nuclear energy technologies. He holds a bachelor of science in Science, Technology, and International Affairs from Georgetown University.