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Kate Cell: Clean up our air, cool down our planet

To the editor:

Chad Cain’s excellent article on air quality in the Pioneer Valley (“Report gives Hampshire County failing smog grade,” April 30) doesn’t mention one factor that makes smog worse: climate change.

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. And that’s why, even if we don’t emit more smog-causing pollutants, ozone levels will still increase as the world gets warmer. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that just seven years from now, in 2020, the continental United States could pay an average of $5.4 billion in health-impact costs associated with this “climate penalty” on ozone. Most of this burden will fall on people with respiratory illness, such as asthma.

The good news is that both ozone pollution and climate change are fundamentally caused by the same activities — human beings burning fossil fuels. If we change our energy mix, we can clean up our air and cool our planet. In National Asthma Awareness Month, that’s a good thing to be aware of.

Kate Cell

The author is an Outreach Coordinator for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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