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13 February 2024, 3:30 am

Climate Change Reversing Gains In Air Quality Across the US, Study Finds news.slashdot.org

Climate Change Reversing Gains In Air Quality Across the US, Study Finds

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Axios: After decades of progress in the U.S. toward cleaner air, climate change-related events will cause a steady deterioration through 2054. New research from the nonprofit First Street Foundation is part of a hyperlocal air quality model showing shifts down to the property level between 2024 and 2054. Its conclusions flow from methods contained in three peer-reviewed studies published by the coauthors. The report itself is not peer reviewed, however. The study finds that climate change is increasing the prevalence of two of the air pollutants most harmful to human health: particulate matter, commonly referred to as PM2.5, and tropospheric ozone. PM2.5 are tiny particles emitted by vehicles, power plants, wildfires and other sources. They can get lodged in people's lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing or exacerbating numerous health problems. Through the use of air quality observations and the development of the new model, First Street's researchers found that the West will be particularly hard hit by increasing amounts of PM2.5 emissions, as wildfires become more frequent and severe. [...] Future projections estimate a continued increase in PM2.5 levels by nearly 10% over the next 30 years, said Jeremy Porter, head of climate implications at First Street, tells Axios in an interview. This would "completely" erase air quality gains made in the last two decades, he said. Porter says that whereas pollutants from cars and factors could be targeted by regulations over the past few decades (and the EPA is proposing tightening some further), climate-related deterioration in air quality is a much tougher problem to solve. Instead of national regulations, climate action requires global emissions cuts, and even sharp declines in greenhouse gas emissions may not alter trend lines for the next few decades. The population exposed to "dangerous" days on the air quality index is likely to grow to 11.2 million between 2024 and 2054, an increase of about 13%. A 27% gain in the population exposed to "hazardous" (or maroon) days on the AQI is likely between the present climate and 30 years from now, the report finds. Porter said that while 83 million people are exposed to at least one "unhealthy" (red) day, this is likely to grow to over 125 million during the next three decades. "The climate penalty, associated with the rapidly increasing levels of air pollution, is perhaps the clearest signal we've seen regarding the direct impact climate change is having on our environment," Porter told Axios via email.

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