Air Quality and Climate Change: A Delicate Balance

John H. Tibbetts


Environ Health Perspect. 2015;123(6):A148 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


As researchers consider the potential health impacts of a warming planet, the relationships between climate change and air pollutants become increasingly important to understand. These relationships are complex and highly variable, depending on local conditions.

Dust, allergens, soot, water vapor, and other particles and gases in the atmosphere are constantly interacting and forming new mixtures, often with the influence of heat and ultraviolet radiation. Many direct human health effects of these airborne agents have been well characterized. Some of these agents also have greenhouse properties, contributing to the overall warming of the planet, while others impart cooling effects. Climate change and air pollution are thus inextricably intertwined.

In the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris this December, stakeholders in the public health and government arenas are hammering out strategies to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants.[1] Many of these strategies will have the added benefit of improving health outcomes related to ambient air pollution.