By Justine Calma , a senior science reporter covering climate change, clean energy, and environmental justice with more than a decade of experience. She is also the host of Hell or High Water: When Disaster Hits Home, a podcast from Vox Media and Audible Originals.
Air quality in the US is projected to backslide in the coming decades, landing back where it was in the mid-2000s as a result of climate change, according to a new report. The report comes with an online tool for users to zoom in on individual properties to see what kind of air quality residents might experience there in the future. It paints a picture of a changing landscape for regulators, who are going to have to adapt to evolving threats.
A hotter planet sets the stage for more wildfire smoke and supercharges the chemical reactions that lead to smog. That means the game is changing when it comes to how to prevent pollution in the future. After decades of success reining in pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes, climate change is erasing some of those gains.
“Air quality really highlights how the changing climate is being felt by individuals,” says Jeremy Porter, lead author of the report published by the nonprofit research organization First Street Foundation. “Really bad floods and really bad wildfires are relatively rare, [although] we see them more and more often. But something like poor air quality, it doesn’t just affect the low houses on the street, it affects everybody in the community,” Porter says. First Street has previously released research and online tools for assessing flood, fire, and heat risks for individual properties.