Climate Change and Your Health: Rising Temperatures, Worsening Ozone Pollution (2011)

August 2011
Report demonstrates how climate change could increase "bad" ozone, threatening health and economy.

Ozone pollution is bad for your health

Millions of Americans suffer from the harmful effects of ground-level ozone pollution—be they children too sick to go to school, high school football players not allowed to practice outdoors in the summer, 65-year-olds with lung disease unable to take a walk in the park, or farmers at risk when they harvest their fields.

Ground-level ozone pollution exacerbates lung diseases such as asthma and can cause breathing difficulties even in healthy individuals.

Ozone pollution is expensiv

Not only does ozone pollution cause a number of serious breathing problems, and therefore a great deal of suffering, it also is damaging in monetary terms. Whether tallying up the dollars lost to sick days or the high costs of emergency-room visits, ozone pollution is expensive.

Climate change could worsen ozone pollution

And now health professionals have an additional ozone pollution concern—climate change.

Temperatures in the United States have already risen more than two degrees Fahrenheit (2°F) over the past century, largely because of climate change, and are expected to keep rising throughout the next few decades and likely much longer.

Here’s the connection: warmer temperatures increase ground-level ozone. That’s why we hear warnings of “bad air days” due to ozone pollution most often during the summer and on cloud-free days.

Report examines the "climate penalty on ozone pollution"

Climate Change and Your Health: Rising Temperatures, Worsening Ozone Pollution, the first in a UCS series on Climate Change and Public Health, combines projections of future climate-induced temperature increases with findings on the relationship between ozone concentrations and temperature to explore the potential “climate penalty on ozone pollution.”

This "climate penalty” demonstrates how higher temperatures could increase ozone pollution above current levels, explores the resulting expected health consequences in 2020 and 2050, and examines the anticipated economic costs of these health impacts in 2020.

It's not too late

The good news is that both ozone pollution and climate change are fundamentally caused by the same activities—human beings burning fossil fuels.

Therefore we can address both ozone pollution and climate change by implementing practical policies and programs and changing individual behaviors.

The United States has the knowledge and the technology to reduce unhealthful pollution while also saving us potentially billions of dollars.

The choices we make today about the way we live, the energy we use, and the pollution we release will make a difference for the health and well-being of ourselves, our children, and our descendants long into the future.

The benefits of cleaning up pollution sources will be a win for climate, a win for air quality, a win for public health, and a win for the economy.