On Earth Day, join Professor Neil Donahue for a discussion of the links between climate change and air quality. Climate change is driven by long-lived carbon dioxide whereas air quality is degraded by soot, air toxics and such. The very long residence time of carbon dioxide means that the consequences of emissions are spread around the globe for centuries in the future (though we see them now as well). This means that a city may see more benefit than harm from emissions. Most air pollution is the opposite. Pollutants reside in the air for at least a week and are confined close to their sources. The harm is thus felt near the emissions. This causes a much stronger incentive for local action. Air pollution in Allegheny County kills at least 250 people each year, well more than auto crashes and homicides combined. Improvements to air quality in the Pittsburgh region have saved thousands of lives each year, with quantifiable (large) economic benefits. However, policies to eliminate fossil carbon emissions (decarbonization) will also eliminate the associated air pollution, and this co-benefit means the local benefits of climate action are in fact strong, making local and not just national or worldwide climate action a selfish and not just altruistic act.
Neil Donahue was born in Pittsburgh. He received a B.A. in Physics from Brown University in 1984 and a Ph.D. in Meteorology and Atmospheric Chemistry from MIT in 1991. He is currently the Thomas Lord Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University and the Director of the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research (also at Carnegie Mellon).
7-8:30 p.m. at the Monroeville Public Library (4000 Gateway Blvd., Monroeville 15146). Free & open to the public. Part of the Science Adventures lecture series.