Welfare Losses from Wildfire Smoke: Evidence from Daily Outdoor Recreation Data
This working paper calculates the impact that wildfire smoke has on visits to public lands in the western United States, finding approximately $2.3 billion in annual welfare losses.
Wildfire smoke pollution is growing in the western United States. Estimates of its health impacts are numerous, but few revealed preference estimates of its damages exist. We study a setting where individuals are directly exposed to smoke, and avoidance behavior is measured with high frequency: outdoor recreation. We combine millions of administrative campground reservation records with satellite data on wildfire, smoke, and air pollution. These data are rich among most studies of recreation, with nearly 1,000 campgrounds and detailed individual-level observations. The data allow us to model sequential recreation decisions under evolving information using a novel control function approach. We estimate that wildfire smoke reduces welfare by $107 per person per trip. Damages are larger when campgrounds are affected by consecutive days of smoke and attenuated when smoke events are sufficiently far from active fires. In total, 21.5 million outdoor recreation visits in the western United States are affected by wildfire smoke every year, with annual welfare losses of approximately $2.3 billion. These findings contribute to a growing body of evidence on the costs of wildfire smoke.
University of Alaska
Margaret A. Walls
Margaret Walls is a senior fellow at RFF. Her current research focuses on issues related to resilience and adaptation to extreme events, ecosystem services, and conservation, parks and public lands.
Press Release — Aug 14, 2023
Western US Wildfire Smoke Costs $2.3 Billion per Year in Health Impacts and Lost Enjoyment
A new working paper, published by scholars at RFF and the University of Alaska Anchorage, finds that camping trips to public lands are worth $107 less on average if they are affected by wildfire smoke.
Resources Magazine — Oct 4, 2023
As Sea Levels Rise, So Does Wastewater
Sea level rise poses a threat for waste disposal infrastructure. In houses with septic systems, rising wastewater can cause unhygienic overflows and system failures. More funding and community involvement can help address this expensive, growing problem.
Common Resources — Sep 27, 2023
Financing Investments in Climate Resilience: A New Approach
A new federal loan program provides support for projects that improve the resilience of communities in dealing with the effects of climate change.