Risky Business: Cap-and-Trade, Public Health, and Environmental Justice

  • Manuel PastorEmail author
  • Rachel Morello-Frosch
  • James Sadd
  • Justin Scoggins
Part of the Human-Environment Interactions book series (HUEN, volume 3)


At the global scale, the advent of a market-based, cap-and-trade approach to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally has been met with skepticism by some observers, who raise equity-based concerns over who will bear the costs of ­slowing climate change. Since California’s passing of the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) in 2006, the “co-benefits” of climate policy – or health benefits that will accrue with a decline in the harmful pollutants that accompany GHGs (“co-pollutants”) – and how they relate to current patterns of environmental disparity have been added to the debate. A key concern is that while GHGs may fall statewide, the decline may not be evenly distributed, and co-benefits could wind up eluding the low-income ­communities and communities of color who need them most. This chapter takes an empirical look at the relationship between GHG reductions, co-pollutants, and ­geographic inequality in California to better understand whether cap-and-trade could actually worsen the pattern of environmental disparity. We find that there is indeed a cause for concern and offer some policy suggestions to insure that environmental ­justice communities are better protected.


Climate justice Greenhouse gas emissions Cap-and-trade Distributive equity Public health 



Aspects of this analysis were presented in more popular form in Pastor et al. (2010), which also provides more specific policy options for California. This research was supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; the conclusions and opinions are those of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funder. We thank Diane Bailey of the Natural Resources Defense Council for kindly walking us through her earlier analysis of health impacts and Robert Vos for his assistance and comments on an earlier iteration of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuel Pastor
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rachel Morello-Frosch
    • 2
  • James Sadd
    • 3
  • Justin Scoggins
    • 4
  1. 1.College of Letters, Arts, and SciencesUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and ManagementUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeologyOccidental CollegeLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, and the Center for the Study of Immigrant IntegrationUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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