Air Quality False Alarm: An Analysis of the Natural Resource Defense Councils Heat Advisory Report

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Heat Advisory, a recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), claims that increased temperatures resulting from global warming will cause higher ozone smog levels and therefore harm Americans’ health. In other words, in addition to other harms, NRDC claims global warming will cause future air pollution to be worse than current air pollution levels. For example, NRDC asserts that the number of days per year exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 8-hour ozone standard will increase by an average of 60 percent in America’s metropolitan areas.

This report shows that air pollution will decline in the future, regardless of whether there is global warming, and that NRDC exaggerates likely future temperature increases in any case. Section II lays out the major points of our critique of the NRDC report. Section III includes specific responses to the report’s claims. Section IV displays trends in air pollution and temperature in a number of metropolitan areas, including the fifteen areas that NRDC focuses on in its report.