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2012 EPA Research Progress Report

Exploring Climate Change and Air Quality Scenarios

Predicting the potential impact that future climate change will have on air quality, the environment, and ecosystems is critical so that potentially damaging effects can be reduced.

EPA scientists are building and advancing computer models that calculate scenarios of the potential impacts of climate change, helping the public, policymakers, and community and business leaders incorporate sound science into their decisions.

Examples of work advanced during 2012 include the following.

Climate change and land use: How will the complex interrelationships between land use—such as housing density and development—and climate change drive environmental impacts in air and water quality, human health, ecosystems, and other environmental parameters? Knowledge about the dynamic connections between climate change and land use will help local communities better prepare and make important decisions.

Climate Change and Human Health

In addition to advancing climate models, EPA researchers are exploring the impact that an increase in events such as heat waves, flooding, and poor air quality will have on the public, particularly vulnerable groups such as older adults.

EPA research is providing crucial information that can be used to better prepare and protect the public from a changing climate. Important published studies in 2012 include the following.

  • EPA scientists conducted a review of the latest published research demographics, relevant climate stressors, and factors contributing to the vulnerability of older adults to those stressors. The study confirmed previous findings that older Americans are likely to be especially vulnerable to stressors associated with climate change.
  • EPA scientists provided a better understanding of the potential range of estimated ozone-related human health impacts brought on by climate change. Through the use of multiple models, epidemio¬logical studies, and population projections, the study was among the first to explore explicitly the uncertainty surrounding assessment of these impacts.

EPA’s Integrated Climate and Land Use Scenarios (ICLUS) project is providing just that kind of information. ICLUS is an online tool and model that enables researchers to tap existing climate change science to run models that calculate potential environmental scenarios related to the connections between climate change and U.S. land use patterns.

In January 2012, ICLUS researchers released data for each region in the contiguous United States to support the National Climate Assessment, a periodic report produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program and delivered to the President and U.S. Congress.

Reducing pollution from the cement industry sector: EPA modelers are developing the Industrial Sector Integrated Solutions (ISIS) model to help industries better evaluate pollution reduction strategies. The model provides sophisticated calculations to illustrate the trade offs and benefits of how various options and changes in operations will affect multiple pollutants simultaneously, and how changes in emissions policy could affect production. The goal with ISIS is to present the optimal cost-effective controls needed to meet emissions reduction requirements.

EPA researchers completed the first ISIS model for the cement industry sector. It allowed the Agency to better evaluate impacts on domestic and international competitiveness as well as plant-by-plant projections of likely control technology installations.

Exploring scenarios for complex environmental decisions: An EPA team combined components of several existing models to develop Geos-CHEM LIDORT Integrated with MARKAL for the Purpose of Scenario Exploration (GLIMPSE). This sophisticated decision-support tool examines the impacts of complex environmental decisions involving air quality, climate change, ecosystems and energy production. For example, GLIMPSE can be used to determine the best strategy to simultaneously address black carbon emissions to reduce health effects while mitigating climate change impacts.

The model is designed to be fast and comprehensive allowing decision makers to explore a range of options to assess multiple environmental goals such as improved air quality, climate change mitigation and ecosystem conservation.

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