Why Does Chile Have Such Bad Air Pollution — And How to Fix It

Chile has some of the worst air pollution in the Western Hemisphere. It is partly a matter of geography  — many cities are in valleys that trap pollution. But it is also the consequence of how many Chileans heat their homes. Wood burning home heat stoves are very common in much of Chile, and these stoves burn dirty and emit harmful pollution.

My guest today, Carlos Chavez, is a professor of economics at the School of Business and Economics at Universidad de Talca in Central Chile. His research has focused on the use of wood-burning heating stoves in Chile and government policies that could reduce the prevalence of wood-burning stoves and improve air quality.   In our conversation, we discuss why so many people in Chile heat their homes this way and how he was able to create a research project that suggests some effective policy remedies.

Chile is a higher income country, yet the way that many households create energy by burning wood is something far more common in poorer countries — it is generally not associated with countries at Chile’s level of wealth.  This makes Chile an interesting case study that I am glad to bring you today.