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US air quality to deteriorate over next decades as wildfires burn and temperatures rise

A new report from the US-based research organisation First Street Foundation has revealed how recent improvements  in America’s air quality are being eroded by climate-change impacts, particularly the wildfires which are becoming increasingly prevalent across North America.

The report, titled ‘Atrocious Air’, links climate change to current and future ozone (O3) levels, projecting future smoke exposure due to wildfires, and combining climate driven O3 and PM2.5 with man-made  pollutants into a consolidated model to predict how the population will be affected by poor air quality in 30 years’ time.white and green house near green trees during night time

The three most severe categories of poor air quality according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI) are ‘unhealthy’,  ‘dangerous’ and ‘hazardous’ and, the report concludes, there will be considerably more of these in 2054.

83 million people are currently at risk of being exposed to unhealthy air but this is expected to rise to 125 million by 2054, an increase of 51%.  The number of people who will be exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution will climb 13% to 11.2 million and those at risk of suffering hazardous levels will rise 27% to 1.9 million.

The report is aimed at property owners, providing people with an idea of their potential exposure to harmful air quality levels both now and in the future and, to that end, it highlights how this deterioration in air quality will be unequally shared around the country.

Increases of PM2.5 from wildfires will be particularly serious in the west, with Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming and California expected to see some of the largest increases in poor air quality days.

California will also suffer the most from heat-driven increases in ozone but, being more geographically dispersed, Connecticut and New York will also be adversely affected.

Dr. Jeremy Porter, Head of Climate Implications Research at First Street said: ‘Understanding the likelihood and persistence of poor air quality exposure is important due to the well documented impacts on health, outdoor labor productivity, and the nuisance of smoke impacting daily routines. We are just starting to see the beginnings of the impact this hazard will have on our daily lives and the larger economy moving forward.’

Matthew Eby, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of First Street said: ‘The statistical signals are clear. We are seeing rapid increases in air pollutants after decades of legislation to reduce pollution. The major concern moving forward is that climate is much harder to regulate than industry.’

 

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