How the “Climate Penalty” will make air pollution in cities even worse

International Sustainability
Smog over Los Angeles. (Flickr / Ben Amstutz)

Smog over Los Angeles. (Flickr / Ben Amstutz)

Scientists’ dire warnings about climate change have become as routine as they are shocking. As global temperatures shatter records and extreme weather events rip across the planet, climatologists have continued to issue study after study about how bad things are and how much worse they will get. For years, we’ve known that coastal cities are threatened by rising sea levels, but now there is even more bad news for those living in populated urban centers—whether they’re near the sea or not. It’s called the “climate penalty” and it could transform urban living.

Smoggy Beijing. (Flickr / william veerbeek)

Smoggy Beijing. (Flickr / william veerbeek)

According to the New York Times, scientists are warning that a warmer planet will  mean smoggier cities. “Ozone is a key culprit,” explained the Times. “This lung-damaging compound, often formed from chemical reactions involving sunlight and automobile exhaust and other pollution, plagues major cities around the globe. As the climate heats up, it is projected that more ozone will form in polluted areas on sweltering days.” While the climate penalty could have serious health impacts for city dwellers, sparsely populated places of the globe could actually see a slight improvement in air quality; that’s because higher temperatures increases the amount of water vapor in the air, which can separate ozone particles.

News of the “climate penalty” comes shortly after a report found that Beijing will be covered in smog for the next 16 years.

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