Unless offset by additional emissions reductions of ozone precursor emissions, there is high confidence that climate change will increase ozone levels over most of the United States, particularly over already polluted areas, thereby worsening the detrimental health and environmental effects due to ozone. The climate penalty results from changes in local weather conditions, including temperature and atmospheric circulation patterns, as well as changes in ozone precursor emissions that are influenced by meteorology. Climate change has already had an influence on ozone concentrations over the United States, offsetting some of the expected ozone benefit from reduced precursor emissions. The magnitude of the climate penalty over the United States could be reduced by mitigating climate change.
Climatic changes, including warmer springs, longer summer dry seasons, and drier soils and vegetation, have already lengthened the wildfire season and increased the frequency of large wildfires. Exposure to wildfire smoke increases the risk of respiratory disease, resulting in adverse impacts to human health. Longer fire seasons and increases in the number of large fires would impair both human health and visibility.
Climate change, specifically rising temperatures and increased carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, can influence plant-based allergens, hay fever, and asthma in three ways: by increasing the duration of the pollen season, by increasing the amount of pollen produced by plants, and by altering the degree of allergic reactions to the pollen.
Air Quality: Key Messages
- Air Pollution
More than 100 million people in the United States live in communities where air pollution exceeds health-based air quality standards. Unless counteracting efforts to improve air quality are implemented, climate change will worsen existing air pollution levels. This worsened air pollution would increase the incidence of adverse respiratory and cardiovascular health effects, including premature death. Increased air pollution would also have other environmental consequences, including reduced visibility and damage to agricultural crops and forests.
Wildfire smoke degrades air quality, increasing the health risks to tens of millions of people in the United States. More frequent and severe wildfires due to climate change would further diminish air quality, increase incidences of respiratory illness from exposure to wildfire smoke, impair visibility, and disrupt outdoor recreational activities.
- Airborne Allergens
The frequency and severity of allergic illnesses, including asthma and hay fever, are likely to increase as a result of a changing climate. Earlier spring arrival, warmer temperatures, changes in precipitation, and higher carbon dioxide concentrations can increase exposure to airborne pollen allergens.
- Co-Benefits of Mitigation
Many emission sources of greenhouse gases also emit air pollutants that harm human health. Controlling these common emission sources would both mitigate climate change and have immediate benefits for air quality and human health. Because methane is both a greenhouse gas and an ozone precursor, reductions of methane emissions have the potential to simultaneously mitigate climate change and improve air quality.
The “Air Quality” publication is available as a downloadable PDF at Link to Source…