Air Pollution and Climate Disruption: Two Linked Issues
Air pollution is insidious in California.
After many decades of dependence on fuels and engines and processes that spew nasty chemicals and chemical combinations into the atmosphere, we find ourselves wrapped in dirty air.
More than 90 percent of the state's residents live in areas where they are exposed to unhealthful air during a typical year. Two of the most polluted regions in the country are located here: the South Coast air basin, which includes Orange County and the urban parts of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and the eight-county San Joaquin Valley air basin.
If you are a child born today in Arvin, in Kern County, you will be born into some of the dirtiest air in America. With the local air district's current cleanup plans in place, you will likely not have a full year of clean air until after you graduate from high school--if then.
If you are a young adult who was born and grew up in Glendora, in Los Angeles County, there's a strong likelihood that your lungs have less capacity than those of a young adult of the same age who was born and raised in Morro Bay, along California's Central Coast. The key reason: air pollution levels in Glendora are high, and those in Morro Bay are low.
The more researchers learn about the air pollution's health impacts, the clearer it becomes that we must clean up California's air.
Then add the growing reality of climate change or, more accurately, climate disruption.
Caused by the unfettered emission of air pollutants called greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, global climate disruption is no longer something we can anticipate happening. As Superstorm Sandy's devastating effects on the Eastern seaboard proved in 2012, it is happening already. Evidence is mounting around the world that the need to reduce greenhouse gases is essential to slow and possibly stop the worst effects of climate disruption.
So, what's the link between the worst health-threatening air pollutants and the climate-disrupting greenhouse gases? Carbon-based fossil fuels, from natural gas to oil to coal, and the way we use them, are producing the worst of that pollution.
Sierra Club California has been a strong and constant advocate for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels to cut air pollution, including climate-disrupting greenhouse gases. Since 1986, we have supported and pushed legislation that successfully helped reduce pollution around the state, including the landmark AB 32 Global Warming Solutions Act. We have also actively defended air cleanup regulations from attack by polluters, including fossil fuel companies invested in the status quo.
Across the state, Sierra Club members have helped push legislators and air regulators to be assertive about regulations and alternative approaches to advance cleaner engines, cleaner fuels and cleaner energy.