Carbon Dioxide ‘Domes’ Over Cities Could Increase Deaths, Study
Carbon Dioxide ‘Domes’ Over Cities Could Increase Deaths, Study

Carbon dioxide “domes” that form over cities contribute to more deaths in those areas, a new study shows.

Although the total health impacts of such concentrations of CO2 are uncertain, they are of concern the study concluded.

"It is estimated that local CO2 emissions may increase premature mortality by 50 to 100 per year in California and 300 to 1,000 per year in the U.S.," the study says.

Conducted by a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, Mark Jacobson, it states that, “Reducing locally emitted CO2 may reduce local air pollution mortality even if CO2 in adjacent regions is not controlled.”

The research also highlights a gap in the carbon dioxide “cap and trade” proposal that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June last year.

Current air pollution regulations worldwide are broad and do not account for local health impacts under domes. The cap and trade system also does not consider controlling local CO2 based on local health impacts.

“If people are doing cap and trade they need to consider where the emissions are going, they can’t just blindly trade emissions from someplace where the air pollution is low to where it’s high,” Jacobson said.

The study found that local CO2 emissions in isolation may increase local ozone and particulate matter. Measurements in Phoenix indicate that peak CO2 in the city center was 75 percent higher than in surrounding rural areas, while the mean measurement was 38 to 43 percent higher than surrounding areas.

Jacobson’s latest research helped California get approved for a waiver that would allow the state to regulate greenhouse gases from motor vehicles. In 2008, then-EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson denied the waiver on the assumptions that there is no difference in the impact of globally-emitted carbon dioxide on California versus U.S. health, and locally-emitted carbon dioxide does not affect air pollution.

The waiver was subsequently passed under the new administration.

“Industries are now trying to get it overturned—so it’s back, being challenged again,” Jacobson said.

Future Options

Jacobson adds that it is technically and economically possible for the world’s energy system to be sustainable in two decades.

“Technically it’s possible, practically it probably won’t happen just because there are too many political obstacles … too many competing interests and lobbying groups,” he said. “It’s more likely that it would be implemented by 2050. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t get almost all your new sources of energy from renewables.”

The plan would be to replace all emissions—eliminate all air pollution emissions, and climate-relevant emissions—and use wind, water, and sun. Vehicles and industrial processes would need to be converted to electric-and-hydrogen-driven.

“Basically anything that doesn’t emit carbon and effectively eliminates air pollution,” he said.

Jacobson’s current research includes studying aircraft emissions related to climate and air quality, the effects of soot on air quality, and the health impacts of aerosols, and climate response to aerosols.

× close
Top