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Air Quality and Climate Change Research

Air Quality and Climate Change

Air quality can be impacted by climate change and, conversely, climate change can impact air quality.

Emissions of pollutants into the air can result in changes to the climate. Ozone in the atmosphere warms the climate, while different components of particulate matter (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.

Climate changes can result in impacts to 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.

Researchers are working to:
  • Understand the influence of climate change on fine particulate matter and other air pollutions.
  • Understand the interactions between naturally emitted compounds and man-made pollutants in the atmosphere.
  • Identify co-benefits of reducing air pollutants that also reduce the impacts of climate change.
  • Develop adaptation and mitigation options to reduce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. 

The scientific knowledge and tools developed by EPA are enhancing the ability of air quality managers to consider climate change in their decisions to protect air quality and to reduce the impacts of a changing climate.

Related Resources:

  • Air Quality Model Evaluation International Initiative (AQMEII) - EPA atmospheric modeling scientists are co-leading an international research collaboration with the goal of building a common strategy for regional and global model development and evaluation.
  • Air Research
  • Black Carbon Research - Black carbon is an air pollutant that contributes to warming of the atmosphere. 
  • Clean Cookstove Research - The majority of cookstoves used in developing countries emit greenhouse gases and black carbon, both air pollutants that contribute to warming of the atmosphere.
  • Climate Change Research
  • GLIMPSE Model - a tool to find US policy scenarios that simultaneously improve air quality human health, reduce impacts to ecosystems, and mitigate climate change. It is designed to be fast -- to allow decision-makers to explore a range of options, as well as comprehensive -- to avoid unintended consequences.
  • MARKAL Technology Database and Model - a data-driven, energy system optimization model. Given the structure of the energy system to be modeled and data to characterize each of the technologies and resources used, MARKAL then calculates the least costly set of technologies over time to satisfy the specified demands, subject to various user-defined constraints. Outputs of the model include a determination of the technological mix at intervals into the future, estimates of total system cost, energy demand (by type and quantity), estimates of criteria and GHG emissions, and estimates of energy commodity prices.