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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has piloted a statewide campaign to deploy more than 20 labs on wheels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions locally and improve urban air quality. Following the landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the air monitoring effort supports New York’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050.

Each vehicle draws in air through clear plastic tubes that run through the rear window and into a mobile laboratory that collects measurements of fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, methane, carbon dioxide, black carbon, and benzene, among other pollutants. Aclima’s fleet vehicles map during different times, days, and seasons to create a more complete understanding of typical Pollution at every block and across entire neighborhoods and regions.

This data is sent in real-time, along with geographical locations to scientists in San Francisco. The DEC initiative uses Aclima’s mobile-mapping technology to translate billions of air quality and greenhouse gas measurements into environmental intelligence through its professional analytics software Aclima Pro. High-intensity mobile monitoring can reveal sources of localized hotspots of air Pollution which are undetected by conventional monitoring systems (e.g., warehouses, metals processing, or restaurant clusters).

Source: Aclima/YouTube

Mobile monitoring of air pollution also has significant implications for Environmental justice research. In a recent study spanning 23 months, researchers conducted full-coverage monitoring of four counties (93 km2 and 450,000 residents) of the San Francisco Bay Area using Google Street View cars equipped with the Aclima mobile platform. The researchers found that, on average, the White population is exposed to lower pollutants than other racial groups, with a median exposure of 16 to 27 percent below the total-population median, while medians for the Black and Hispanic/Latino populations are higher by 8 to 30 percent depending on the pollutant.

The American Lung Association “2022 State of the Air” report lists New York in 14th place for “Cities Most Polluted by Ozone”. Even more jarring is the fact that to meet its 2050 emissions target, the city’s annual greenhouse gas emissions should be no higher than 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. However, in 2020, buildings alone accounted for 34 million metric tons. Climate change is amplifying the effects of air Pollution by changing atmospheric conditions, increasing land erosion, and amplifying forest fires. Moreover, burning fossil fuels is a twofold driver of climate change and air pollution globally. Therefore, tackling climate change will also greatly improve our air quality.

Remember, the single most impactful action an individual can take is choosing to eat more plant-based foods. A 2021 study found that global greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods, while the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, entitled Mitigation of Climate change, supports a shift to vegan diets (rich in pulses, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, and devoid of any animal-derived product) as it could reduce food-related GHG emissions by 29 percent (estimated at 6.5 GtCO2e).

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