Improved air quality from sustainable city development in the United States, India, and China

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Lal, Raj M.
Russell, Armistead G.
Ramaswami, Anu
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It is estimated that ~70% of people will live in cities by 2050, an increase of 2.5 billion globally. Because of such growth, there are pressing needs to study sustainable city management, develop and utilize new methods to obtain fine-scale data, and identify infrastructure to support future development to improve public health. Exposure to ambient air pollution is associated with adverse health outcomes and is one of the leading causes of premature mortality globally, estimated to contribute to 6.5 million deaths each year, many of which occur in the United States (~70,000), India (1.4 million), and China (~650,000). In addition, these three countries are the top-three CO2-emitting countries globally, accounting for ~50% of global emissions. The work presented in this thesis explores strategies to improve ambient air quality, reduce carbon emissions, assess PM2.5 spatial patterns in US cities, and study fine-scale linkages between various environmental indicators. The Taj Mahal is an iconic Indian monument and one of the Seven Wonders of the World but its marble surface has been discolored with time. We used spatially detailed emission estimates and air quality modeling to estimate biomass (e.g., municipal solid waste (MSW), dung cake, wood, and crop) burning contributions to the discoloration. National Chinese PM2.5 and CO2 emission reductions from novel, urban-industrial symbiosis strategies were assessed, including waste heat re-use from electric generating and industrial sources. The relationship between air quality, neighborhood infrastructure, and subjective well-being was characterized to provide supportive data for more equitable outcomes for future city development. PM2.5, NO2, and CO concentrations in the near-road environment were compared to concentrations at nearby urban monitors in US cities and we found no statistically significant (α=0.05) difference of PM2.5 between the two environments. Finally, power plant and industrial waste heat to electricity and coal fly-ash material exchanges were assessed in India to estimate air pollution and carbon mitigation of such strategies there.
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