Air quality and health in US will improve from other nations' actions to slow climate change

November 13, 2017, Institute of Physics
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The USA will benefit from improved air quality in the future, through actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions both domestically and globally.

That is the primary finding of new research led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters. It comes following the decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw the USA from the 2015 Paris Accord on climate change, which commits its signatories to actively work on reducing their GHG emissions.

The study examined the benefits of global and domestic GHG mitigation on US air quality and human in 2050, comparing a scenario with no global action to reduce GHGs with an aggressive scenario that significantly slows climate change. The GHG reduction scenario emphasizes energy efficiency and shifts energy production and use away from highly polluting forms toward cleaner sources with less air pollution.

The study then quantified the of global GHG reductions, and for the first time separated those into contributions from foreign vs. domestic GHG mitigation. It showed that the health benefits to the US of reducing GHG emissions are significant, and in monetary terms would exceed the costs of reducing GHGs.

Exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) is associated with both human morbidity (e.g. hospitalisations, emergency department visits, school absences, and asthma-related health effects) and premature deaths.

Lead author Dr Jason West, from UNC, said: "PM2.5 and O3 have long enough lifetimes in the atmosphere to transport intercontinentally, which suggests that emissions from one source region can affect air quality and human health in multiple receptor regions.

"To explore the long-term effects of a global GHG mitigation strategy, we used dynamical downscaling from global simulations to predict the changes in air quality and related premature deaths."

Co-lead author Dr Yuqiang Zhang said: "We found that the global GHG mitigation scenario reduces air pollution-related deaths in the US by 16,000 deaths in 2050 for PM2.5-related mortality, and 8,000 deaths a year for O3-related respiratory mortality."

The team's results show that foreign GHG mitigation - i.e. other countries implementing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (such as the 2015 Paris Agreement) - contributed 15 per cent of the total PM2.5-related and 62 per cent of the total O3-related deaths avoided.Dr Zhang said: "Our results show that the US can gain significantly greater co-benefits for and , especially for ozone, by working together with other countries to combat global .

"Previous studies that estimated the health benefits of GHG reductions typically focused locally or nationally, and therefore missed the benefits from foreign reductions."

Dr West added: "In monetary terms, we found that the benefits for avoided deaths from ozone and PM2.5 were roughly $137 per ton CO2 at high valuation, and $45 at low valuation, of which 31% are from foreign GHG reductions. These benefits are likely greater than the cost of reducing GHGs in 2050."

Explore further: One million premature deaths linked to ozone air pollution

More information: 'Co-benefits of global, domestic, and sectoral greenhouse gas mitigation for US air quality and human health in 2050' Environmental Research Letters (2017). DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa8f76

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18 comments

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tblakely1357
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 13, 2017
The propaganda never ends.
omegatalon
1.3 / 5 (3) Nov 13, 2017
The Paris Climate Accord will mean that countries who have signed the agreement will need to begin investing $Trillions to develop clean energy systems as they move away from fossil fuels and these countries need to begin thinking about the infrastructure their countries will need to create in the form of recharging stalls for the tens of millions of electric vehicles their countries will only sell.

Here in the United States, states that want more EV usage will need to adopt the same type of infrastructure upgrades like California will need to rip up streets and make parking spaces recharging stalls then add MW of additional power to the power grid to offset the usage of gasoline.

Without the infrastructure of more electricity generation and recharging stalls for electric cars, the Paris Climate Accord won't go anywhere as the only people who will be doing a lot of business is lawyers who will be filing lawsuits (and used car dealerships).

Curious George Sr
1 / 5 (2) Nov 13, 2017
x
Curious George Sr
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 13, 2017
Paris accord does NOT improve air quality. It merely limits a production of carbon dioxide, a non-toxic and non-polluting gas (EPA notwithstanding).
ddaye
5 / 5 (5) Nov 13, 2017
Paris accord does NOT improve air quality.

This article explains how it DOES improve air quality. The fuels that release carbon also release particulates, which are a health issue completely independent of CO2 and climate issues.
Caliban
3 / 5 (2) Nov 13, 2017
This conclusion requires exactly zero resource expenditure or thought, even, since it is a tautological relation.

An essentially criminal waste of resources, as any 5 year old could have told you same, as this would be the case for any and every country in the world, regardless of vanishingly small that benefit might be when compared to a particular country's indigenous emissions.
Chris_Reeve
Nov 14, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
PTTG
4 / 5 (4) Nov 14, 2017
Why is there so much fear on the right? Why do they feel so threatened by climate science? Is it simply tribalism?
leetennant
4.3 / 5 (6) Nov 14, 2017
The modern right descended from fascism which at its core is an economic theory that the economy should be managed by corporations. The nationalism and racism are social means to ensure compliance. Stopping climate change requires regulation of corporate activity so of course the right is going to oppose it.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Nov 14, 2017
will need to begin investing $Trillions to develop clean energy systems as they move away from fossil fuels

Nobody needs to develop anything. The relevant technologies already exist. They just need to be deployed as the old powerplants and other fossil fuel systems (like ICE cars) are phased out after their natural lifetimes.
Renewables are already cheaper almost anywhere in the world than putting up more of the old kind of powerplants, so everyone saves money and everyone gets to have a cleaner environment (and everyone has to pay less taxes to mitigate damages and dangers from climate change)
It's win-win-win.
Why anyone would argue against this is beyond me. Are there people who really *want* to pay more money and live in dirty air?
Chris_Reeve
Nov 14, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
johnp
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 14, 2017
Chris Reeve, why don't you then. But good luck with that for every so called 'legitimate challenge' I've seen touted so far has been anything but legitimate.
Chris_Reeve
Nov 15, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Nov 15, 2017
@chris/hannes the eu pseudoscience idiot cult member
Why does academia refuse to identify, document and track the numerous legitimate challenges to settled science? Is it simply groupthink?
1- considering you know jack sh*t about science or the scientific method, it is actually quite comical that you would suggest it doesn't track challenges

2- @barakn proved you're ignorant and presenting a known false claim about the above statement in this thread here: https://phys.org/...ers.html

3- repeating a lie doesn't make it more true: that is a tactic of religion, not science
science requires evidence, repeatability and falsifiability, not just opinion and claims
(especially when they're proven to be false claims like your own)

to date, every argument you've presented has been proven to be based on your ignorance of science and blatantly false claims of your eu religious cult

epic fail
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Nov 15, 2017
Why does academia refuse to identify, document and track the numerous legitimate challenges to settled science?

If they were legitimate they would. But you just stuck the word 'legitimite' in there out of thin air.

Let me make this clear: A *legitimate* challenge is one that is good enough to publish with the attendant care for the scientific method (theory, deduction, observation/experiment - or at the very least a proposal of how the observation can be achieved - AND how the theory also explains any past observations as good or better than current theories. Oh...and if you don't/can't include the physics/math to back that up then don't bother)

If you can formulate such a *legitimate* criticism then it's actually very easy to get published. Journals are eager to publish such breakthrough papers/proposals (you can find numerous reports about such speculative papers on phys.org)
Rubensteinberg
1 / 5 (1) Nov 15, 2017
Now their marketing term is "GHG." So phys.org are you going to ban the #1 GHG? Water vapor? Get lost losers, your game is up!
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Nov 16, 2017
Now their marketing term is "GHG." So phys.org are you going to ban the #1 GHG? Water vapor? Get lost losers, your game is up!
before you comment further, please read Lacis et al and learn why water vapor is so dangerous when combined with CO2
leetennant
5 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2017
Now their marketing term is "GHG." So phys.org are you going to ban the #1 GHG? Water vapor?

before you comment further, please read Lacis et al and learn why water vapor is so dangerous when combined with CO2


In order, the top three most abundant GHG in Earth's atmosphere are:
Water vapour (H2O)
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Methane (CH4)

Now let's look at the atmospheric lifetime of each gas:
Water vapour - 9 days
C02 - Between 65% and 80% of CO2 released into the air dissolves into the ocean over a period of 20–200 years. Some lasts even longer.

So you have a contributor that's large but shortlived versus something with a smaller impact that lasts for decades. We've doubled that gas.

Now as Stumpy said, look into how CO2 is a water vapour booster. We've doubled a gas that boosts the impact of the main GHG in the atmosphere. Water vapour is responsible for 60% of the EGHE and we've pumped in a gas that increases its impact.

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