Under Trump air pollution has increased for the first time in nearly a decade

“We had expected that things would be getting worse—and that they would perhaps be getting worse in lots of places.”


The Trump administration has made it clear where their priorities lie from day one of the Trump presidency. Since then Trump has successfully completed 10 regulatory rollbacks involving the improvement of air quality. Now new data is showing us just what a difference those rollbacks have made.

In the past two years the number of pollutants has risen by 5.5 percent, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. For the past seven years before this, there was a decline of 24 percent in air pollution.

Using Environmental Protection Agency data, two economists at Carnegie Mellon also found that this recent increase in pollutants is associated with 9,700 premature deaths in 2018 alone. “At conventional valuations, these deaths represent damages of $89 billion,” write the authors.

California, in particular, has seen a massive increase in air pollution, 12.5 percent. Authors of the study note that this is most likely associated with the state’s increase in giant wildfires.

“We had expected that things would be getting worse—and that they would perhaps be getting worse in lots of places,” co-author Karen Clay told Earther. “I think the fact that California accounts for such a large chunk was a little bit of a surprise for us.”

Researchers analyzed and broke down more than 1.8 million daily readings from the EPA, isolating different types of particulate matter like ammonium nitrate, sulfate, and elemental carbon, which all largely originate from specific sources of combustion. This allowed the researchers to hypothesize that the increase in wildfires, vehicle miles traveled, natural gas use, and decreases in Clean Air Act enforcement probably all contributed to the change in air quality. They hope that their data will be the first step into more expansive future research that can determine more thoroughly the cause.

Among the regulatory rollbacks the Trump administration has completed is a rule requiring state authorities to track vehicle emissions on highways, changing how oil and gas refineries monitor pollution, and the rollback of a rule limiting industrial pollution.


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