I don’t know why, but in 2019 it seems like there are more earth-moving air-quality-news-related items than usual. And, the year isn’t even over yet.
The American Lung Association in April issued its latest findings of the quality of America’s air in its 20th annual “State of the Air” report as well as in a corresponding press release providing an overview and highlights. The Association’s Harold Wimmer was resolute in the Apr. 24th release when the Association’s President and CEO said: “‘The 20th annual ‘State of the Air’ report shows clear evidence of a disturbing trend in our air quality after years of making progress: In many areas of the United States, the air quality is worsening, at least in part because of wildfires and weather patterns fueled by climate change,’ …”.
Even for this year’s World Environment Day – June 5th – the focus was on air quality. It was a call to global action. In the UN Environment “On World Environment Day, world turns spotlight on air pollution” press release there was this eye-opening and thought-provoking delivery: “‘Today, we face an equally urgent crisis. It is time to act decisively,’ UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his official message for World Environment Day. ‘My message to government is clear: tax pollution; end fossil fuel subsidies; and stop building new coal plants. We need a green economy not a grey economy.’”
The big story undoubtedly has to be the Amazon rainforest. It has to do with its burning. A large portion thereof has been set ablaze and deliberately. Apparently room is being cleared for development purposes. Gizmodo UK reports that the Amazon rainforest region has seen its share of fires: More than 100,000 have been recorded so far this year. Air pollution in the region and elsewhere because of it has been particularly problematic. The destruction has caught much of the world’s attention.
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (my alma mater) devoted its Summer 2019 Cal Poly Magazine issue to climate change: a Cal Poly Magazine first.
Then the Union of Concerned Scientists in July issued its “Northern Great Plains Region Areas to Endure Nine Weeks or More a Year When ‘Feels Like’ Temperature Exceeds 100 Degrees: Dangerous Heat to Soar Across Entire US ‘Breaking’ National Weather Service Heat Index Scale, Posing Unprecedented Health Risks” press release. The release’s title pretty much says it all.
This November and December marks four years since the landmark 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) climate change summit in Paris, France. In that not quite half-a-decade’s time, overall, world greenhouse gas emissions have not fallen but, instead, have climbed. The goal now is to limit global mean surface temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by mid-21st century to, according to experts, avoid planetary climate catastrophe and irreparable climate-related damage.
Others, meanwhile, if I correctly recall, are calling for zero net carbon emissions by that same time. Perhaps sooner, even.
One of the biggest climate news items to come along is the arrival in America of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden who, incidentally, has traveled here on a solar-powered sailboat. Don’t let that soft-spoken demeanor of hers fool you: Thunberg is quite outspoken and a powerhouse when it comes to walking the talk where the combined issues of climate change and global warming are concerned.
As it happens, Thunberg appeared on the Fri., Sept. 13, 2019 PBS Newshour broadcast in a face-to-face interview with correspondent William Brangham. In that one-on-one in answering Brangham’s many questions, Thunberg’s responses were thoughtful and direct.
It’s obvious from Thunberg’s responses the young climate activist is extremely well-versed. But, it isn’t just this: Thunberg walks the talk as it were. Need proof? Witness the method by which she traveled to these here shores. Walking the talk is key here, for her actions speak so much louder than her words.
Climate change/global warming have become central concerns among Democratic presidential candidates.
This is just a tiny sampling of the kinds of issues that made headlines this year.
Lester Holt, chief anchor of NBC Nightly News this week is on assignment in Alaska (the place of his childhood) to uncover evidence of global warming in America’s “Last Frontier” state. I will watch beginning Monday evening to learn just what will be covered and what the findings are.
Later this year in December, the 25th Conference of the Parties will be held the 2nd through the 13th in Santiago de Chile, Chile. Known also by COP25 the world event and gathering, is just around the corner.
Images: Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, NASA (upper); Philkon Phil Konstantin, Topaz Mountain, Delta, Utah (lower)
– Alan Kandel