Carnegie Mellon University

photoAllen Robinson

Engineering and Public Policy
Mechanical Engineering

Coal fired power plants, motor vehicles, wood stoves and other combustion systems are major sources of air pollutants. Their emissions have significant consequences for human health and the environment. For example, elevated concentrations of small suspended particles, such as those seen in the exhaust plume of diesel bus, are believed to cause 50,000 premature deaths in the US a year. Fine particles also play a controlling role and Earth’s climate. Addressing these issues requires understanding of the contribution of different sources to ambient air pollutant levels. In addition, one must be able to predict how ambient pollutant concentrations respond to changes in emissions. These are challenging scientific problems. However, formulating public policy is even more difficult as it requires balancing competing interests of our complex society in the face of uncertainty.