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NC Scientist Says Climate Action Needed Now to Protect Human Health

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Monday, November 8, 2021   

RALEIGH, N.C. - Higher temperatures driven by climate change will likely make air pollution worse, and one North Carolina scientist says action is needed now to mitigate human health consequences.

Sarav Arunachalam is deputy director at the Institute for the Environment and director of the Center for Environmental Modeling and Policy Development at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He pointed to the Biden administration's new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity as a step toward ensuring that communities understand the health risks related to the climate crisis, and how to prevent or reduce them.

"From a North Carolina perspective," said Arunachalam, "I'm hoping and pitching for something very similar at the state level, where people can be thinking about what are the populations that are most vulnerable, and who will be affected by climate change."

Arunachalam will be speaking this Wednesday on climate and human health at CleanAire NC's State of the Climate Conference. For more information, visit cleanairenc.org.

Arunachalam pointed to the increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires as an example of how the climate crisis is worsening air quality, by increasing the amount of particulate matter in the atmosphere.

"And when you have more fine particles," said Arunachalam, "these are these really, really small dust particles, which are not visible, when people inhale, they have all kinds of adverse health effects."

He added that the pandemic has provided a window into how climate change will end up affecting certain populations.

"Both in terms of number of COVID cases, as well as death counts," said Arunachalam, "so I think climate change is going to be very similar in terms of who is going to be affected more than the average population in North Carolina."

Last week the Biden administration announced a new set of rules aimed at reducing methane emissions, a key contributor to global warming.

The regulations require states to develop plans to cut methane emissions from coal mines, agriculture, landfills and an estimated 300,000 oil and gas well sites nationwide. The administration says the proposed requirements would shrink emissions by around 75%.




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