Ammonium Nitrate Chemistry

When Climate and Air Quality Compete

Reducing carbon dioxide pollution comes with benefits to the climate that usually go hand-in-hand with efforts to improve air quality.  A new housing development planned for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), however, has been warned that by going green it may in fact worsen air pollution.

In the ACT it is compulsory that new residential developments be fitted with natural gas infrastructure, which is used both for cooking and heating.  The new 350 home development of Ginninderry, however, has now been allowed to go completely electric in an energy efficiency trial.  The ACT has access to significant hydroelectric generators and has a commitment to completely switch to renewable electricity, making the move away from gas a good one for the climate.  An air quality impact assessment report from the EPA, however, has warned that it may harm air quality in the region.  Specifically, their report cautioned that the switch to electricity "will limit the choices available for space heating in homes and could result in an increased reliance on solid fuel heating options in the area".  This means more wood-fired heaters and more wood smoke and particulate matter.

What must be considered here is how to mitigate the need for space heaters at the design stage, through quality insulation and by building-in features such as ducted and in-floor electric heating.  Wood heaters also need to be operated efficiently, and pellet heaters might be considered as a better space heating alternative.  Another thing to remember is that the "gas hob" cooktop is detrimental to indoor air quality, and there are benefits here in switching to electric induction cooking.  The reality is that sometimes compromises need to be made on the transition to sustainability, and this looks to be one of those times.