Analyses of sustainability goals: Applying statistical models to socio-economic and environmental data

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Tindall, Nathaniel W.
Crittenden, John C.
Thomas, Valerie M.
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This research investigates the environment and development issues of three stakeholders at multiple scales—global, national, regional, and local. Through the analysis of financial, social, and environmental metrics, the potential benefits and risks of each case study are estimated, and their implications are considered. In the first case study, the relationship of manufacturing and environmental performance is investigated. Over 700 facilities of a global manufacturer that produce 11 products on six continents were investigated to understand global variations and determinants of environmental performance. Water, energy, carbon dioxide emissions, and production data from these facilities were analyzed to assess environmental performance; the relationship of production composition at the individual firm and environmental performance were investigated. Location-independent environmental performance metrics were combined to provide both global and local measures of environmental performance. These models were extended to estimate future water use, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions considering potential demand shifts. Natural resource depletion risks were investigated, and mitigation strategies related to vulnerabilities and exposure were discussed. The case study demonstrated how data from multiple facilities can be used to characterize the variability amongst facilities and to preview how changes in production may affect overall corporate environmental metrics. The developed framework adds a new approach to account for environmental performance and degradation as well as assess potential risk in locations where climate change may affect the availability of production resources (i.e., water and energy) and thus, is a tool for understanding risk and maintaining competitive advantage. The second case study was designed to address the issue of delivering affordable and sustainable energy. Energy pricing was evaluated by modeling individual energy consumption behaviors. This analysis simulated a heterogeneous set of residential households in both the urban and rural environments in order to understand demand shifts in the residential energy end-use sector due to the effects of electricity pricing. An agent-based model (ABM) was created to investigate the interactions of energy policy and individual household behaviors; the model incorporated empirical data on beliefs and perceptions of energy. The environmental beliefs, energy pricing grievances, and social networking dynamics were integrated into the ABM model structure. This model projected the aggregate residential sector electricity demand throughout the 30-year time period as well as distinguished the respective number of households who only use electricity, that use solely rely on indigenous fuels, and that incorporate both indigenous fuels and electricity. The model is one of the first characterizations of household electricity demand response and fuel transitions related to energy pricing at the individual household level, and is one of the first approaches to evaluating consumer grievance and rioting response to energy service delivery. The model framework is suggested as an innovative tool for energy policy analysis and can easily be revised to assist policy makers in other developing countries. In the final case study, a framework was developed for a broad cost-benefit and greenhouse gas evaluation of transit systems and their associated developments. A case study was developed of the Atlanta BeltLine. The net greenhouse gas emissions from the BeltLine light rail system will depend on the energy efficiency of the streetcars themselves, the greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity used to power the streetcars, the extent to which people use the BeltLine instead of driving personal vehicles, and the efficiency of their vehicles. The effects of ridership, residential densities, and housing mix on environmental performance were investigated and were used to estimate the overall system efficacy. The range of the net present value of this system was estimated considering health, congestion, per capita greenhouse gas emissions, and societal costs and benefits on a time-varying scale as well as considering the construction and operational costs. The 95% confidence interval was found with a range bounded by a potential loss of $860 million and a benefit of $2.3 billion; the mean net present value was $610 million. It is estimated that the system will generate a savings of $220 per ton of emitted CO2 with a 95% confidence interval bounded by a potential social cost of $86 cost per ton CO2 and a savings of $595 per ton CO2.
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