New Episode of Resources Radio: “Balancing the Ledgers: Pollution and GDP, with Nicholas Z. Muller”


Nov. 19, 2019

News Type

Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Resources for the Future (RFF) today released a new installment of Resources Radio: “Balancing the Ledgers: Pollution and GDP, with Nicholas Z. Muller.”

In this episode, host Daniel Raimi talks with Nicholas Z. Muller, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Lester and Judith Lave chair of Economics, Department of Engineering and Public Policy and Tepper School of Business. Muller discusses the findings of a paper he recently published with coauthors, “Fine Particulate Matter Damages and Value Added in the US Economy,” which measures the health damages from air pollution in various economic sectors in the United States relative to their economic contribution, as measured by traditional metrics such as gross domestic product (GDP). Raimi and Muller discuss how emissions trends have changed over time, which parts of the economy account for the most pollution, and related implications for environmental policy.

Listen here

Notable quotes from the podcast:

  • “Green accounting explores the value of natural resources, in place. And by that I mean, when we have standing forests, GDP [gross domestic product] tends to include the value of those forests when they get used—that is, cut down—and green accounting says, no, wait a minute, there are other services that the forests are actually producing.”―Nicholas Z. Muller (5:46)
  • "Generally as a long-term trend, PM 2.5 and associated damages have fallen in the US precipitously since the 1970s ... I will note that when I have looked at the pollution monitoring data for years more recent than 2014 ... I find a disturbing trend that the PM 2.5 levels have started to go up after a decade of continuous decline in both 2017 and 2018 ... I want your listeners to know that our research finds a promising declining trend in damages ... But the most current data we can find suggests air pollution levels have started to tick up for the first time in quite a while."―Nicholas Z. Muller (13:06)
  • “[T]he agriculture sector is a really interesting place to think about additional abatement, because traditionally … we think about air pollution control from smokestacks and tailpipes. And agriculture really offers different opportunities, in the sense that … if we're more aware of these upstream costs associated with the production of livestock for food, then we may decide to change our habits, or we may need nudges in the form of public policy to help us do that.”―Nicholas Z. Muller (17:55)
  • “I don't think about businesses pursuing emission reductions as a primary objective. And so what we need to think carefully about is whether or not there are complementarities between profit maximization as their objective and emission reductions.”―Nicholas Z. Muller (27:04)

Resources Radio is a weekly podcast series exploring timely environmental, energy, and natural resources topics. Episodes can be found on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, SoundCloud, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.

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