If the question was asked of which would I rather do, fight air pollution or a changing climate, I would choose the former, if for no other reason than achieving success is much more likely, the results being more immediate and any cleanup progress related to such, more measurable and tangible. As to the tangible part, the results can be seen.
The best example I can think of is 1940s Los Angeles smog. Right prior to then, probably very few had even heard the word, much less even knew what smog was. The scourge caused breathing difficulties, burning eyes, headaches and nausea including vomiting. Once it was definitively determined what the cause was, a full-scale assault was initiated to rid southern California skies of this sore sight for the eyes. The fight was targeted, direct and localized. And, due to that effort, the smog-cleanup blitz was deemed a success.
From smog to fog
Unlike obvious smog, a changing climate cannot be immediately observed. What are only detectable to humans immediately are the different climatic effects.
It’s what, in part, explains why the war on climate change, for lack of my being able to pin down the correct term here, is so iffy a proposition. Trying to effect change on climate itself, even if possible which, by the way it is, could take a lifetime or more to do.
Solving the problem of central California tule fog is an example of one such success. Clearing out the wintertime fog was not what anyone had in mind or even expected, but it happened. It happened as a result of mitigating dirty Valley air. See related stories here and here.
Still worlds apart
Another reason why elevating climate control to top-of-mind status among the blanket majority has been anything but easy, is because there are many who argue that there is this climate-related-construct constant which is that the climate is ever-changing, all of its own doing. In other words, there are those who believe that the forever-changing climate is totally independent of any human influence whatsoever on it.
As a matter of fact, people commenting here on this blog and elsewhere have called into question humankind’s influence in terms of forcing surface air temperature rises, their position being there is none. And, that’s completely understandable and expected. Of course other commenters are saying otherwise all of which is likewise expected and understandable. That’s just how it is. That’s the reality.
Moreover, there are times I have heard others making reference to a climate crisis; more of the same through my own reading in the press and in books.
Truth be told, it is my observation that we are not now in nor are we experiencing a climate crisis, for if we were, it sure isn’t being treated like one, again, not by the blanket majority and not by a long shot.
Exactly the reason why I would so much rather my focus be on solving for pollution in the air as opposed to trying to combat climate change per sé if it came down to my having to choose between the two.
And, besides, I am of the firm belief – and it’s been this way for me since day 1 – that if the concentration of pollution in our air is substantially reduced, there is every reason to believe that a more stable planetary climate will follow.
I say this because I have seen the effects of a cleaner atmosphere in my neck of the woods in California’s San Joaquin Valley, that being way, way less fog, of the tule variety.
Based on what I have observed over the decades, it’s hard evidence like this that just can’t be dismissed.
Images: Jeff Schmaltz, NASA (upper); Alfred T. Palmer (lower)