Climate change


Climate change poses a threat to urban air quality and health through increases in particulate pollution (associated with more frequent bushfires and dust storms), and increases in the formation of ozone and other components of photochemical smog. The latter phenomenon is driven by increasing temperatures, and long-range transport of pollutants associated with large-scale changes in atmospheric circulation.

Box ATM16 Air quality issues identified by jurisdictions as research priorities

At a 2014 symposium to consider future directions for research into air quality in Australia, the Australian Government, and state and territory environment agencies discussed their areas of priority interest and need relating to the management of air quality (Emmerson et al. 2015). Nominated areas included human health impacts, air pollution modelling, and emissions inventories and measurements. There are many ‘hot topics’ that do not affect all the jurisdictions equally, but are the source of many of the enquiries they receive from the community and other stakeholders. These range from smoke from wood heaters and bushfires (planned and unplanned), to issues surrounding industry and the transport sector.

The key issues identified by the jurisdictions are listed below. Some of these issues were discussed in the 2011 review of the National Environmental Protection Measures (NEPMs; NEPC 2011a), such as the applicability of NEPM air quality standards to air pollution measured at source-affected sites.

Jurisdictional issues

Health issues

  • Effect of different types of particles
  • Combined impact of multiple pollutants
  • Long-term and short-term exposure
  • Unique Australian conditions
  • Micro-environment exposure

Modelling issues

  • Air quality assessments
  • Health risk assessments
  • Dispersion, chemical and receptor modelling
  • Source apportionment techniques
  • Secondary particles
  • Ozone
  • National, regional and local air quality forecasts
  • More data for model developments

Measurement issues

  • What to measure or monitor?
  • Where to measure or monitor? Not just NEPM sites?
  • What particulate matter (PM) components to measure—PM1, ultrafine particles, particle number
  • Speciation of particles
  • Secondary particles
  • Background and continental-scale monitoring, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency continuous PM2.5 and IMPROVE networks
  • Measurements to support model development and evaluation
  • Intensive campaigns
  • Satellite measurements of aerosol optic depth, etc.

Hot topics

  • Wood heaters
  • Prescribed burns, bushfires
  • Industry
  • Road tunnels
  • Coal trains
  • Diesel vehicles
  • Local sources
  • Climate change and air quality
  • Community communication
  • Air quality in the planning process
  • National air quality database
  • Emissions inventories

In addition, the symposium participants raised some key questions:

  • What research is needed to optimise the design of monitoring networks to fully represent population exposures (including near-road and near-industry populations) by using a combination of modelling and measurements?
  • What research is needed to find the most cost-effective and practical actions to reduce emissions and hence exposure?
  • How can the impact of emissions reduction strategies be assessed?
  • How can modelling be improved for air pollution incidents (e.g. bushfires, dust storms, industrial accidents)?

Source: Emmerson et al. (2015)

Keywood MD, Emmerson KM, Hibberd MF (2016). Ambient air quality: Climate change. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra,, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65c70bc372