Viewpoint: Causality Between Health And Air Pollution Is Undisputed
Tue, 02/04/2020 - 1:08pm caleb
Roscommon/Crawford Chapter, Citizens Climate Lobby
This column is intended to provide educational information about climate change for Roscommon and Crawford County residents. The material is prepared by local residents who are members of the Citizen Climate Change Lobby.
Some of us in the Citizens Climate Lobby, Roscommon/Crawford Chapter follow the national news closely in order to keep abreast of activities that affect climate change. It is hard duty since the din created by media reports about this, that, and the other thing gives rise to a cacophony of noise worse than a fifth-grade band. One little-known nugget to appear recently was almost hidden amidst all that noise. We think it deserves more attention since it is so egregious.
Apparently, the national media think this ‘behind the scenes’ affair in national politics is too piddling to get first-order headlines. It concerns the failure of the federal government to follow the rules of law that have been established to protect our environment. The bulwark of much of our law for air pollution lies in the requirements of the Clean Air Act. The Act was first passed by Congress in 1970 to set requirements intended to help minimize air pollution. The Act was later amended by President Bush to update requirements as technology changed. This 1990 amendment was overwhelmingly passed by a bi-partisan majority in both houses of Congress. Since that time, the Act has been implemented by the EPA to clean our air by a variety of controls to minimize and control poisons that were previously released in our atmosphere.
The current executive branch of our government has implemented a strategy of pretending that neither science nor climate change exist. In one of his first acts in his new administration, the president cancelled America’s engagement in the world-wide agreement concerning air pollution known as the 2015 Paris Accords. Critics of the current administration have noted that the Paris Accords were harmful for political fund-raising since the fossil fuel industry were such large-scale donors. Surely that wouldn’t have mattered to our political leaders who (as some would say) are the best that money can buy.
For the past two years, the current administration has pursued a strategy of avoiding implementation and enforcement of air pollution regulations that affect climate change. It is no surprise that relaxing regulations or ignoring them totally is of great value to many of our nation’s wealthiest individuals and the companies they own or manage. They show their gratitude by providing money for politicians. Of course, this particular quid pro quo is largely kept hidden and is therefore unknown by most hard-working Americans.
These actions by the government have real-life effects on average people. A detailed study concludes that “by not addressing methane leakage from both new and existing oil and gas operations, the toxic soup released into the air – including methane, volatile organic compounds, and hazardous pollutants such as benzene – pollution that will annually cause 1,900 premature deaths, 1.1 million asthma attacks, and 3,600 emergency room visits by 2030.” Shouldn’t our government be held accountable for this sort of malfeasance?
Fortunately, we have state government agencies that are aware of these failures and have taken action. State attorneys general have stepped in, challenged the legality of these delay tactics, and obtained court victories over a recalcitrant administration. Backed into a corner, the current administration has finally come forward with proposed rules of its own. Rather than reducing greenhouse gas emissions as required by the Clean Air Act, however, its new proposals would roll back the reductions embedded in current rules and sanction a return to pre-existing greenhouse gas emission levels. In some cases, climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions would actually increase further.
The causality between health and air pollution is undisputed. Surely, we can do better.
In the last 200 years, we’ve burned enough fossil fuel to raise the concentration of CO2 from its historic level of 275 parts per million to 400 ppm. Each year we burn more and more fuel for energy; experts believe we are on track to reach 700 ppm unless major changes are made. We earthlings are now pushing about 40 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually. “The extra heat we trap on the surface of the planet from this expenditure of carbon is equivalent to the heat that would be released from 400,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs every day,” according to sources.
So, there you have it, another insult to our clean air by those who burn fossil fuels. Something should be done.