As new reports continue to reveal the potential environmental threats consumers could face if real change isn’t made, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have conducted a study that predicts what could happen if regulations designed to protect the environment are reversed.
The researchers focused on the fight against ozone, which is incredibly harmful to consumers’ breathing and overall respiratory health. They found just how difficult it would be to reverse the effects of perpetuated environmental damages if current regulations were rolled back.
“Ozone can occur hundreds of miles away, so if controls are loosened in one state to save industry money there, a state downstream may have to spend even more to try to meet ozone targets,” said researcher Ted Russell. “You transfer the problem and the costs. Most U.S. cities are already not in attainment, and this will likely make it harder for them to get there.”
The wide-reaching effects of ozone
The researchers’ study is thorough in identifying the wide range of effects that increased ozone can have on the environment and consumers’ health more generally. The research team says prominent policy decisions are at the core of these negative consequences.
For starters, they explain how the struggle between government officials to get on the same page about climate change, and implement policy that reflects those attitudes, has the potential to derail positive efforts. Specifically, they point to attempts by the Trump Administration to pass legislation that would make it easier to burn fossil fuels, while also continuing to fight regulations that would reduce the overall ozone production.
Moreover, governmental incentives to go green -- like opting for solar panels or using more wind-powered energy sources -- are being cut, which can contribute to an increase in pollution while also making it harder for consumers to do their part for the environment.
“Incentives are being retired like production and investment tax credits, which have been very influential in solar and wind,” said researcher Marilyn Brown. “The Investment Tax Credit gives a 30 percent tax reduction for investments in solar or wind farms or the purchase of solar rooftop panels by homeowners. The Production Tax Credit for utilities reduces tax liabilities by 23 cents for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by solar, wind, or other renewable energy sources.”
The researchers used this information to create a model that predicts how different parts of the world would be affected by rising ozone levels. They project that rising temperatures worldwide and the continued production of fossil fuels will cause ozone levels to continue to rise. The cost of caring for such side effects may also increase, while the overall health of consumers is projected to worsen.
“Additional ozone is tough to control technologically,” said Russell. “The costs would be very high -- tens of billions of dollars. In the meantime, more people than would die than otherwise would have.”