Air Quality and Climate
Changes in climate can result in impacts to local air quality. Atmospheric warming associated with climate change has the potential to increase ground-level ozone in many regions, which may present challenges for compliance with the ozone standards in the future. The impact of climate change on other air pollutants, such as particulate matter, is less certain, but research is underway to address these uncertainties.
Air Quality Impacts on Climate Change
Emissions of pollutants into the air can result in changes to the climate. These pollutants, including greenhouse gases, are often referred to as climate forcers. Ozone in the atmosphere warms the climate, while different components of PM can have either warming or cooling effects on the climate. For example, black carbon, a particulate pollutant from combustion, contributes to the warming of the Earth, while particulate sulfates cool the earth's atmosphere.
Research on climate change and air quality includes:
- Point source emissions of air pollutants and climate forcers
- Fugitive and area source emissions of air pollutants and climate forcers
- Mobile source emissions of air pollutants and climate forcers
- Wildland fire emissions
- Developing and verifying air pollution emissions inventories, including greenhouse gas emissions.
- Modeling chemical transport of air pollutants emitted into the atmosphere.
- Quantifying the health and economic benefits of reducing air pollution and emissions of climate forcers.
- Evaluating how different multipollutant/multisector control strategies can affect greenhouse gases and other air pollutant emissions.
The scientific knowledge and tools developed by EPA are enhancing the ability of state and local air quality managers to consider climate change in their decisions to protect air quality and to reduce the impacts of a changing climate.
Learn more about other Climate Change Research.
Air Pollution & Climate Change: The Impacts on Global Health
What Actions Can I Take?
Walk, Bike, or Take Public Transit! The world’s roadways are clogged with vehicles, most of them burning diesel or gasoline. Walking or riding a bike instead of driving will reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- and help your health and fitness. For longer distances, consider taking a train or bus. And carpool whenever possible. Living car-free can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 2 tons of CO2e per year compared to a lifestyle using a car. Visit CapMetro for Bike Maps and bus schedules and if you live one of the rural parts of the MSA, CARTS has you covered. They are a regional transportation servicie for the non-urbanized areas of Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Travis and Williamson counties.
Switch to an Electric Vehicle! If you plan to buy a car, consider going electric, with more and cheaper models coming on the market. In many countries, electric cars help reduce air pollution and cause significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gas or diesel-powered vehicles. But many electric cars still run on electricity produced from fossil fuels, and the batteries and engines require rare minerals which often come with high environmental and social costs. Switching from a gasoline or diesel-powered car to an electric vehicle can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 2 tons of CO2e per year. A hybrid vehicle can save you up to 700 kilograms of CO2e per year. FuelEconomy.gov is the official U.S. Government source for fuel economy information: you can find out about Federal tax incentives for the purchase of new hybrid, lean-burn, alternative fuel, and electric vehicles.
Reduce, Reuse, Repair, and Recycle! Electronics, clothes, and other items we buy cause carbon emissions at each point in production, from the extraction of raw materials to manufacturing and transporting goods to market. To protect our climate, buy fewer things, shop second-hand, repair what you can, and recycle. Every kilogram of textiles produced generates about 17 kilograms of CO2e. Buying fewer new clothes – and other consumer goods – can reduce your carbon footprint and also cut down on waste. The City of Austin is committed to a zero waste goal to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills by 90% by the year 2040. The diversion rate at the end of fiscal year 2021 was 41.96%. You can learn more in Austin Resource Recovery's 2021 Annual Report.
Save Energy at Home! Much of our electricity and heat are powered by coal, oil and gas. Use less energy by lowering your heating and cooling, switching to LED light bulbs and energy-efficient electric appliances, washing your laundry with cold water, or hanging things to dry instead of using a dryer. Improving your home’s energy efficiency, through better insulation for instance, or replacing your oil or gas furnace with an electric heat pump can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 900 kilograms of CO2e per year. ENERGY STAR® is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. The blue ENERGY STAR label provides simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions.
- Air Research
- National Climate Assessment - EPA contributes to the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s development of the National Climate Assessment, including chapters on the impacts of climate on air quality. The Fourth National Climate Assessment was published in November 2018 and the Fifth National Climate Assessment is under development.
- Clean Cookstove Research - The majority of cookstoves used in developing countries emit black carbon, an air pollutant that contributes to warming of the atmosphere.
- GLIMPSE Model - GLIMPSE is a decision support modeling tool being developed by EPA that will assist states with energy and environmental planning through the year 2050. Users of GLIMPSE can explore the impacts of energy technologies and policies on the environment.
- Community Multi-scale Air Quality Model - CMAQ is EPA’s premier modeling system for studying air pollution from local to hemispheric scales.
- EPAUS9rT -- EPAUS9rT is a publicly available database that can be used with the TIMES energy system modeling platform to evaluate the potential effects of alternative future technology scenarios on air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions. Users can identify cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy strategies for electric power generation, and for meeting the energy demands of industrial processes, the transportation system, and buildings.
- Science Inventory is a searchable database of journal articles, reports and presentations primarily by the EPA's Office of Research and Development.