Climate Change Research Questions
- What do we know about the health impacts of climate change?
- How does EPA support the U.S. Global Change Research Program?
- Will climate change impact air quality?
What do we know about the health impacts of climate change?
EPA is conducting research to improve our understanding of the health impacts of climate change and how best to adapt and remain resilient to changes. In a 2008 report, EPA synthesized and assessed the scientific literature on the impact of global change on human health, welfare, and settlements in the United States.
Key highlights are:
- It is very likely that heat-related illnesses and deaths will increase over coming decades.
- Several food and water-borne diseases are likely to be transmitted among susceptible populations, although climate will seldom be the only factor.
- The most vulnerable areas in the United States are likely to be in Alaska, coastal and river basins susceptible to flooding, and arid areas where water scarcity is a pressing issue, and areas where economic bases are climate-sensitive.
- Populations are moving toward those areas that are more likely to be vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
How does EPA support the U.S. Global Change Research Program?
The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society. EPA supports the USGCRP in several ways. EPA works with the other program agencies to identify the research that is most needed to inform decision-makers about how to respond most effectively to global environmental change. EPA researchers work collaboratively with experts from other USGCRP agencies to develop the science needed to understand how air quality, water quality and ecosystems may be impacted by global change.
EPA's research includes efforts to connect continental-scale temperature and precipitation changes to regional and local air quality and hydrology models to better understand the impacts of climate change on air quality and water quality. Also, other research examines how watersheds will respond to large-scale climate and other global changes to inform decisions about management of aquatic ecosystems and expand understanding of the impacts of global change.
This research provides USGCRP agencies with information about the connections between global change and local impacts, and how local actions influence global changes.
Will climate change impact air quality?
EPA is conducting research to determine the impacts of climate change on air quality. A 2009 report, by EPA assessed the impacts of global change on air quality. Because air pollutants travel across the U.S. as well as the world, poorer air quality may become more common due to changes in regional weather patterns. Rising temperatures could increase cloud cover, thus, influencing the formation of pollutants like ozone and increasing emissions of pollutants from fires, dust and vegetation.
The assessment found that ground-level ozone may extend beyond summertime because of climate change in many regions of the country. This could also require air quality managers to extend their ozone monitoring times earlier in the spring and later in the fall. With this in mind, many U.S. regions could see an increase in ozone concentrations above their historical levels. They may also experience increases in emissions of natural ozone-forming compounds from vegetation.