Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Global Air Pollution

          Green technologies cannot develop fast enough as major cities around the world are dealing with the negative effects of pollution. High economic activity in many major cities is leading to increased air pollution. It has even gotten so bad that in the city of Shanghai, public transit drivers are getting lost on their daily routes due to smog coverage. What is the point of continuing economic growth in these areas if the health of the local environment deems the area unlivable? As the human population continues to grow and become more urbanized, personal as well as environmental health will become more of an issue.
            China seems to get the heat for being one of the worlds worst contributors to air pollution. Although some major cities in China (Beijing and Shanghai) do show aggressively high levels of particulate matter in the air, New Delhi ( in India) takes the cake. A recent measurement of this particulate matter in the air put New Delhi’s average daily peak reading at more than twice as much as Beijing’s. The focus may be stuck on China for now, but other major cities throughout the world are experiencing the same air quality issues. India has even been reported to have the world’s highest death rate due to chronic respiratory diseases. This particulate matter can make its way into lungs and degrade human health. Asthma is only one example of the many diseases caused by air pollution. A sad truth lies in the fact that both China and India were very resistant on setting lowered pollution limits in global climate talks. These countries are showing their reluctance on taking proactive and reactive steps to better the quality of life in these areas.
            Another issue that causes a decrease in air quality is trans-pacific and intercontinental air pollution. These types of air pollution will effect neighboring cities/states/countries of highly polluted areas as typical wind patterns carry bad air downstream. An example of trans-pacific air pollution can be found as the westerlies (northern hemisphere wind pattern) carry dangerous pollutants from a polluted China to the west coast of the United States. The United States, however, cannot act completely innocent as we outsource a lot of our products from China. The east coast of the United States can also serve as a victim to downstream air pollution as the Midwest continues to burn coal mercilessly. Some states in the Midwest seem to have more lenient emission regulations as compared to eastern states such as Connecticut and New Jersey who are experiencing these down-wind pollution effects. Current petitions are going out in an effort to halt some of these negative externalities faced by eastern states. Wind borne air pollution may be a global wake up call to curb carbon emissions.

            Resistance to cutting back on carbon emissions is beginning to meet its match. In Paris, France, police began pulling over vehicle’s with even number license plates and fined them an equivalence of 31 U.S dollars. Police will continue the enforcement of this new law in an effort to show citizens their effect on the environment. There are some exceptions to this law, which include individuals using hybrid vehicles, vehicles with three or more people, and motorcycles. These efforts need to be implemented throughout the world in cities facing dangerous levels of particulate matter in the air. As human population growth shows its devastating effects on all aspects of the environment, air pollution seems to be one of the most evident problems. Without action to combat our environmentally unsafe practices, human health on a global scale will take a hit.

1 comment:

  1. In Environmental Science Seminar this evening we were talking about efforts in the U.S. and China to reduce traffic congestion, and thus decrease traffic pollution, by renovating cities with more and better bike lanes and public transit options. Usage of public transit is trending upwards in big cities like LA (subway usage up 4.8% in 2013) and in smaller cities like Cleveland (2.9%).