Among a cohort or cohorts there is this sense, an opinion, that whether carbon dioxide is introduced into the atmosphere naturally or is the result of such being released through the burning of fossil fuels like oil, natural gas or coal, CO2 isn’t air pollution – at all.
Then there, of course, are those who beg to differ, subscribing to the notion that if carbon dioxide entering the air gets there through anthropogenic means or processes, then that CO2 is pollution, no ifs, ands or buts about it.
Expanding on this, it may prove helpful or instructive to look at the situation this way: Being fossil fuels are, in a sense, carbon stores, when burned, because of incomplete combustion, carbon is given off or given up into the air as a result. As such, in this particular instance carbon can be and should be considered a pollutant emission, no two ways about it.
Now, given that this is the case, how, then, is it that, carbon, once meeting the air (which contains oxygen or O2) and combining with O2 to form CO2, can be considered anything but an air pollutant?! In that this human-helped or facilitated CO2 is not naturally occurring, that such can even be thought of as a non-pollutant remains an enigma.
Aside from this and whether a universally accepted premise or not, the point is polluted air in addition to all other miscellaneous impurities in the atmosphere, because each and all negatively impact the air that we humans breathe and need to survive, plainly and simply put, why would we as human beings even accept their being there, regardless of concentration? A legitimate question.
It’s an interesting construct no doubt, but all would agree that right now there is a more pressing matter needing tending to, it being to stop the spread of and eradicate the Corona Virus or what has now been alternatively referred to as COVID-19, short for Corona Virus Disease having been detected in 2019.
Not quite a COVID-19-type emergency, but, in thinking about it, polluted air should be viewed similarly. Why? Because of the seriousness, importance and scope of the issue.
According to the World Health Organization, 90 percent of world population is exposed to and breathes in air pollution, air that, at the same time, is detrimental to human health.
Fact is, 7 million lives are lost prematurely yearly on account of this truly sad state of affairs. So far, the Corona Virus has claimed approximately 3,000 lives and has sickened scores more.
There is much talk of global warming and climate change these days. Interesting to note that while the efforts to correct the two (air pollution and climate change/global warming) follow like paths, more attention, as of late, appears to be focused on the latter.
While, on the surface, this may seem the correct crisis to mitigate, directing energies to or on battling climate change/global warming could potentially be drawing resources and dollars away from where they might perhaps go farther and where the results could be more effective and pay a more direct dividend and sooner in terms of combating air pollution.
And, whereas in tackling polluted air, generally, not only are greenhouse gases (the substances pointed to by many as the reason for the planetary warming) targeted for lowering or removal in the air, at the same time, so too are emissions like black and brown carbon, oxides of nitrogen, ozone, volatile organic compounds and more.
Any way it’s looked at, where infiltration of impurities into the air is concerned, discharge is discharge is discharge.
As such, in the interest of public health, there should be no let-up in the war waged to bring the scourge that contaminated air is to its knees, be it in the form of the Corona Virus or toxic air pollution.
Image above: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory