The summer has just begun, and Louisville has already seen dangerously high levels of ozone pollution on thirteen days. Scientists are predicting that ozone could become an even bigger problem as average temperatures rise.
Ozone is created when pollution from cars and smokestacks cooks in summer heat. Louisville’s seen a lot of it lately, and nearly every week there’s been at least one warning that the air outside could be unhealthy for at least some people.
Todd Sanford is a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In a study he released last year, he studied known correlations between the temperature and ozone levels. And as climate change progresses and temperatures rise in 2020 and 2025, Sanford says there are also slight increases in ozone pollution.
“But we were seeing that this does actually lead to fairly significant impacts. So although the changes themselves are modest, they’re occurring on the backdrop of already elevated ozone levels,” he said. “So what was surprising to us was that even these small changes can lead to pretty significant impacts.”
In the report, Sanford estimates that rising ozone levels will cause 50,000 more cases of acute respiratory symptoms in Kentucky…and that’s in the year 2020 alone.