Feb 22, 2024 - News

Texas' air quality predicted to backslide

Estimated days with unhealthy air quality, 2024
Data: First Street Foundation; Note: Maximum count of days with unhealthy air quality from anywhere within each county; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

After decades of progress in the U.S. toward cleaner air, climate change-related events are expected to set back gains in parts of Texas through 2054.

The big picture: Nearly 70 of Texas' 254 counties are expected, by 2054, to see an increase in days with an average air quality index of 100 or higher under current climate conditions.

Why it matters: Climate change and the increased likelihood of wildfires as far away as Canada stand to reverse improvements the U.S. has made so far in air quality, per new research from the nonprofit First Street Foundation.

Details: Bad air quality days are when pollution is above 100 on the air quality index.

  • North Texas is estimated this year to have the highest number of days with unhealthy air quality compared to other parts of the state.
  • The number of days per year with harmful air quality in the North Texas counties are expected to increase over the next 30 years, per an analysis by Axios' Andrew Freedman.

By the numbers: Based on current climate conditions, Dallas County will see an estimated four days with an air quality index of 100 or higher in 2024, compared to five in 2054.

  • Collin and Denton counties are estimated to have six days in 2054, two more than in 2024.

Flashback: Dallas-Fort Worth's overall air quality was worse last summer than in previous years, in part because of Canadian wildfires.

Zoom out: The U.S. population's exposure to "dangerous" days on the air quality index is likely to grow to 11.2 million, a roughly 13% increase, by 2054.

  • States in the West are projected to see some of the worst air quality impacts.

Reality check: Climate action requires global emissions cuts. Even sharp declines in greenhouse gas emissions may not alter trend lines for the next few decades.


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