UCLA researchers created a roadmap for policymakers to use to improve air quality by 2050. They cited recent cleaner air achieved due to stay-at-home orders when they released their study.

The air Californians are enjoying could become the status quo if the state follows guidance contained in a new study.

The UCLA study, published this week in the journal Nature Sustainability, offers a path to improve air quality.

State and local officials, by relying on existing policies and technologies, could drastically decrease greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution by 2050. The study’s authors referenced how current stay-at-home orders have led to better air quality.

“It doesn’t need to take a global pandemic to create cleaner air and healthier lives,” said Yifang Zhu, one of the study’s lead authors and a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

“Climate action directly benefits people at a local and regional scale by creating cleaner air. The public health benefits are both immediate and long-term, and we can save the economy billions each year.”

According to the study, a carbon-neutral California is possible and it would save about 14,000 lives per year. Better air quality also would reduce acute respiratory symptoms in over 8 million adults, ease asthma symptoms in 1 million children, and decrease cardiovascular hospital admissions by 4,500.

The state’s most vulnerable residents would benefit the most from the increased air quality. More than a third of preventable deaths would come from the most-polluted areas, researchers found.

Carbon neutrality would also have economic benefits in California, the study finds. The number of lost work days would decrease by over 1 million a year. The study projects that “the monetary savings of greenhouse gas reductions will exceed the cost by $109 billion a year.”

Researchers conducted the study using modeling to analyze how ambient air quality would change in a carbon-neutral state. They combined the model with data and information to estimate how it would impact public health.

UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, partially funded the study.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that human-caused emissions need to be reduced to nearly zero to avoid the most severe effects of global warming.

– City News Service

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