For the longest time, it has seemed like, air pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases were thought of in different contexts.
Air pollution is thought of as being associated with poisons (toxic chemicals, toxicants or chemical pollutants) and haze in – or discoloration of – the air and poor – and damage to – health, hospitalizations and premature death, while emissions of greenhouse gases are thought of as being tied to climate change and/or global warming, weather anomalies or extremes such as 100- or 500-year floods and atmospheric rivers, reduced snow packs, droughts, sea-level rise and more. It has been as if polluted air and greenhouse gases had only one thing in common and it was that each fall under the “emissions” umbrella, but other than this, these were not in any other way connected.
My view has always been that the root of anthropogenically-sourced greenhouse gas emissions release is the burning of fossil fuels which, by its very nature and at its most fundamental level, is an air-polluting process. And, it is for this reason alone that the two – human driven air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions – are inextricably intertwined.
In C40’s “New Research Gives Cities Plans to Tackle GHG Emissions & Air Pollution Simultaneously” press release dated Dec. 4, 2018, it is all spelled out.
The organization writes: “Today [Dec. 4, 2018], C40 is releasing research findings that identify a set of priority actions that cities can take to tackle climate change and air pollution simultaneously, placing the transport, buildings and industry sectors at the top of the list.”
According to C40, based on said research findings, if its member cities, all 96 of them, employ the listed ambitious buildings, clean transport and industry recommended actions along with a carbon-free electric grid, if achieved, yielded would be “an 87% reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions, a 49% reduction in PM2.5 levels, 223,000 premature deaths averted and up to $583 billion in economic benefit.”
C40 went on to declare, emphasize, “Cities are already taking decisive action to fight air pollution. Mexico City introduced a self-regulation scheme to reduce industrial emissions; Santiago, Chile is replacing domestic wood burning stoves with cleaner, high-efficiency stoves; Chennai, India is developing a roadmap for implementing electric buses. And many more cities have committed to clean transport, buildings and energy through declarations on fossil-fuel free Green & Healthy Streets, Net Zero Buildings, and 100% renewable energy. This research presents specific actions that will yield significant benefits in both emissions reductions and air quality improvements:
- In transport, priority actions include: Implementing ambitious walking, cycling and mass transit policy and action; prioritising transit-oriented development; introducing stringent emission standards; policies to support shift to zero tailpipe-emission vehicles; freight optimisation; and introducing zero emission areas.
- In the buildings sector, priority actions include: Introducing stringent standards for new buildings; retrofitting the building envelope; improving heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and water heating; and lighting, automation and controls.
- In the industry sector, priority actions include: Industrial operational improvements and energy efficient technologies; emissions capture; fugitive emissions control; and maintenance and monitoring.”
The organization in the release goes on to state that: “Urban air pollution is a global health emergency: a recent WHO report estimates that globally, 630 million children under 5 years old are exposed to unsafe air. This was also a major focus of the first-ever WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health.
WHO is an acronym for World Health Organization.
And then there is this: “‘We are proud to partner with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group on this research which will help connect the dots between climate action, improved air quality, and measurably better health benefits in vulnerable urban communities,’ said Paulette Frank, Worldwide VP of Environmental Health, Safety & Sustainability for Johnson & Johnson.”
And this: “‘Curbing climate change and air pollution are two of the biggest challenges of our time,’ said Duncan Price, BuroHappold Director. ‘The evidence from this study shows the importance of taking ambitious action now to create resilient and healthier cities.’”
I couldn’t agree more.
A best-of-both-worlds approach, finally!
Images: Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (top); California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (2nd); Courtesy of Lynn Biddinger, San Luis Obispo (California) Chamber of Commerce (third); Eric Kounce, Wikimedia Commons (fourth); Wikimedia Commons (bottom)
This post was last revised on Dec. 30, 2018 @ 10:38 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.