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UCLA Researchers Chime In On Future Of Post-Pandemic Air Quality Actions In California

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- Amid rising death tolls and the slow down of lives that this pandemic has caused, the improvement of air quality is one clear positive thing that has resulted from coronavirus.

However, some experts are concerned about the post-pandemic air levels and if they'll return to previous levels.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles say the future of air quality in this state doesn't have to be bleak.

Coronavirus Shutdown Causes Less Smog And Clearer Air In Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 15: An aerial view shows light traffic passing on Sunset Boulevard during what would normally be the evening rush hour, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, on April 15, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data from March shows that Los Angeles had its longest stretch of air quality rated as "good" since 1995 as Safer-at-Home orders were issued in response to the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

They've laid out a plan in a study to cut greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution by 2050, while preventing approximately 14,000 premature deaths caused by air pollution-related illnesses, which can include respiratory, cardiovascular diseases and neurological problems.

"It doesn't need to take a global pandemic to create cleaner air and healthier lives," said one of the study's lead authors Yifang Zhu. "Climate action directly benefits people at a local and regional scale by creating cleaner air. The public health benefits are both immediate and long-term, and we can save the economy billions each year."

The study's roadmap to reach net-zero emissions in California uses existing policies and technologies.

"Nothing we are suggesting is science fiction, but it will take a lot more than what we're doing now," said study co-author Tony Wang.

The study found that achieving net-zero emissions in California would do the following:

  • Reduce acute respiratory symptoms in 8.4 million adults
  • Reduce asthma exacerbation in 1 million children
  • Decrease the number of lost workdays by 1.4 million
  • Decrease cardiovascular hospital admissions by 4,500

The study's authors say this research is aimed at assisting state and local policymakers to visualize the benefits of climate change action.

The study, "Health co-benefits of achieving sustainable net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in California," was published on May 4 in the Journal Nature Sustainability.

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