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Energy shift can reduce racial inequalities linked to air pollution

Black residents in Los Angeles suffer more from the effects of air pollution than white people because systemic injustices have forced them in greater numbers to live in areas with less green space and heavier traffic.

Some of the health implications of this historic inequality were detailed in a 2019 research paper that revealed Black people breathed in around 40% more air pollution, specifically particulate matter, from vehicles than white citizens.

But now a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis – published this week in the journal Science of the Total Environment, shows that using low carbon fuels for transportation, power and heating could ‘reduce racial and ethnic disparities in exposure to air pollution’.

The analysis in the study reveals that ‘using larger quantities of low-carbon fuels reduced those exposure disparities’. With Michael Kleeman, the study’s senior author and professor of civil and environmental engineering, saying such a move “levels the playing field for all California residents”.

Switching from fossil fuels to solar, wind and electric sources could, the researchers found, cut exposure to ‘fine and ultrafine particle pollution’ by up to 40% by 2050.

“Not only does it improve air quality, but it also shrinks the disparity among different groups,” added Kleeman.

The paper also shows that these low-carbon fuels could stop the thousands of deaths caused by air quality every year, with the accumulated health benefits of the transition estimated at around $20 billion annually.

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Written By

Susan is the co-founder of Innovators Magazine and a consultant for OnePoint5 Media. Susan is also a member of the UNFCCC-led Resilience Frontiers Nexus group and co-chair of the APOPO Foundation UK board.


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