Measuring the Social Net Benefits of COVID-19 Restrictions: The Case of Reduced Vehicle Use in a Pollution-Prone Region of Utah
Journal of Environmental Protection
Scientific Research Publishing, Inc.
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A number of natural experiments have recently found that COVID-19 restrictions imposed in nations worldwide are correlated with short-term reductions – in some cases dramatic reductions – in mobile-source air pollutants. Noticeably absent from these studies are estimates of the social net benefits associated with the changes in human behavior underlying the pandemic-induced effects. Using readily available data provided by the state of Utah and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Co-Benefits Risk Assessment Health Impacts Screening and Mapping Tool (COBRA), we find that daily social net benefit was positive during a pandemic-induced shutdown from March-April, 2020 in Utah’s Wasatch Front region solely when COBRA’s “high” health benefit estimate from combined reductions in PM2.5 and NOx concentrations are weighed against the region’s “low” vehicle-trip cost estimate. All other scenarios correspond with negative benefit estimates, i.e., when high and low benefit estimates of reductions solely in PM2.5 concentrations as well as for combined reductions in PM2.5 and NOx concentrations are weighed against the region’s high vehicle-trip cost estimate. Generally speaking, social net benefits are higher for two of the Wasatch Front’s four counties.
Hartley, E. and Caplan, A.J. (2021) Measuring the Social Net Benefits of COVID-19 Restrictions: The Case of Reduced Vehicle Use in a Pollution-Prone Region of Utah. Journal of Environmental Protection, 12, 887-902. https://doi.org/10.4236/jep.2021.1211052