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Issues

Variability and Change
    Ambient Air Quality
      Indoor Air Quality

        Introduction

        Eagles near Bruny Island

        This chapter details atmosphere and air quality issues affecting the health, environment and economic well-being of Tasmanians and provides an overview of the characteristics of the atmosphere and climate. The chapter also describes the global and regional changes and trends affecting Tasmania, and highlights the condition of the State's air quality, the pressures placed upon it and the management responses to these pressures. It focuses on changes since the first State of the Environment (SoE) Report for Tasmania (SDAC 1997), although earlier baselines are used where data are available and relevant for describing conditions, trends and changes in the environment.

        The key issues that are discussed in the chapter can be accessed from the menu on the left of this page. This will take the reader to the summary 'At a glance' section for the particular issue selected. For a more in-depth analysis, 'issue reports' can also be accessed from these summary sections (follow the 'Continued in depth' link). All chapter content-including indicators, case studies and recommendations-can be accessed through these Issue Reports.

        A brief summary of the key findings of the Atmosphere Chapter, with links back to the related issue reports, is available. It includes information on the conditions and trends and what has been achieved since the previous SoE Report.

        Various lists of Atmosphere Chapter content are also available to assist in providing an overview of the chapter. An index of the indicators used within the Atmosphere Chapter is included. Various case studies relevant to the issues are provided and a number of recommendations are presented for this chapter. Links are also provided to each of these from within the body of the chapter.

        Background information on the key concepts used in this chapter is provided. In particular, the structure of the atmosphere and the nature of climate can be accessed from the links below.

        The atmosphere is constantly changing. Atmospheric structure and composition have been evolving for billions of years, but Tasmania's highly variable climatic patterns are the most obvious examples of change.

        Humans are now putting such pressure on the atmosphere that changes are occurring at a faster rate than at any time in the past. Pollution of the atmosphere, the enhanced greenhouse effect and depletion of the ozone layer are all issues that require attention. The effects of poor air quality on human health and the environment are also of concern.

        An important way to prevent further degradation is to increase our understanding of the structure of the atmosphere, the nature of the Tasmanian climate and its inherent natural variability, and the potential areas of deterioration. Addressing such issues will help ensure a cleaner environment for future generations.

        Key points to arise from this chapter include the need to recognise the impacts of climate change, the opportunities to manage these impacts and to adapt to climate variability, and the prospects of greater variability caused by climate change. The chapter also points out the need to reduce total exposure to air pollution from both indoor and outdoor sources.

        The protection of atmospheric processes and climate relies on a global response to greenhouse gas emissions. However, irrespective of the success of global responses (of which Tasmania has a role), Tasmanian action in adapting to climate change will be necessary.

        While climate change responses are vital, air quality issues are also viewed as a key area where the health and well-being of the Tasmanian population can be protected immediately and directly. It is also an area in which there is capacity to achieve desired outcomes through Tasmania-specific responses within the National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM) policy framework.

        A key priority is to reduce the total exposure of the Tasmanian population to air pollution, but the State's environmental managers face uncertainty in attempting to assess the situation. For example, the level of exposure to some air pollutants, such as air toxics, is unknown and the health implications of an individual's total exposure to air pollutants is little understood. The contribution of indoor and outdoor pollution to ill-health is also unclear.

        Advancing current research and developing progressive programs, strategies and policies is crucial for the development and implementation of appropriate and effective standards for ambient and indoor air quality. While it is recognised that population size presents difficulties in achieving statistically valid survey results in Tasmania, survey data on the links between air quality and ill-health would assist in guiding policy direction. Compared with the previous SoE Report, there is now a better understanding of some aspects of air quality in Tasmania.

        Contributors

        Many people and organisations have assisted greatly in compiling the State of the Environment Report. For this chapter, the Commission would like to acknowledge the kind assistance of the following:

        Ian Barnes-Keoghan, Frank Carnovale, Steve Carter, Tony Davidson, Paul Fraser, Adele Gliddon, Helen Locher, Desiree Mesaros, Mike Power, Doug Shepherd, Paul Steele, Neil Tindale, John Todd, Stephen Waight, Alasdair Wells, Fiona Wells.

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        Last Modified: 14 Dec 2006
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