Air Quality

Poor air quality—specifically increased ground-level ozone and/or aerosol concentrations—results in increased incidence of respiratory illness. For example, acute ozone exposure is associated with increased hospital admissions for pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and allergic rhinitis, and also with premature mortality. Temperature and ozone concentrations are closely connected; projected increases in temperatures in coming decades may increase the occurrence of high-ozone events and related health effects. Climate change could also affect local to regional air quality through changes in chemical reaction rates, boundary layer heights that affect vertical mixing of pollutants, and changes in airflow patterns that govern pollutant transport. In addition to air quality problems driven by pollution, preliminary evidence suggests that allergen production by species such as ragweed increases with high temperature and/or high CO2 concentration.

The relationship between climate change, air quality, and public health is further complicated by the fact that policies designed to limit the magnitude of climate change may be at odds with improving public health outcomes. For example, reducing aerosol concentrations would reduce air pollution-related health impacts, but the resulting changes in atmospheric reflectivlity could further increase temperatures.

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