Category Archives: Climate Change

Lung Assn: More than 4 in 10 Americans Live with Unhealthy Air; California cities among worst

Repost from The American Lung Association

More than 4 in 10 Americans Live with Unhealthy Air; Eight Cities Suffered Most Polluted Air Ever Recorded

American Lung Association’s 20th annual ‘State of the Air’ report sounds the alarm on worsened air quality driven by climate change, placing health and lives at risk

Trend charts and rankings for metropolitan areas, county grades are available at Lung.org/sota

(April 24, 2019) – CHICAGO  The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report finds that an increasing number of Americans—more than 4 in 10—lived with unhealthy air quality, placing their health and lives at risk. The 20th annual air quality “report card” found that 141.1 million people lived in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution, an increase of more than 7.2 million Americans since the last annual report. Eight cities recorded their highest number of days with unhealthy spikes in particle pollution since the nation began monitoring this pollutant 20 years ago. And the nation recorded more days with air quality considered hazardous, when air quality reached “emergency conditions”—Maroon on the air quality index—than ever before.

“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,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer. “This increase in unhealthy air is eye-opening, and points to the reality that the nation must do more to protect the public from serious, even life-threatening harm. There is no clearer sign that we are facing new challenges than air pollution levels that have broken records tracked for the past twenty years, and the fact that we had more days than ever before when monitored air quality reached hazardous levels for anyone to breathe.”

The 2019 “State of the Air” report analyzed the three years with the most recent quality-assured data collected by states, cities, counties, tribes and federal agencies: 2015-2017. Notably, those three years were the hottest recorded in global history. When it comes to air quality, changing climate patterns fuel wildfires and lead to worsened ozone pollution. This degraded air quality threatens the health of Americans, especially those more vulnerable such as children, older adults and those living with a lung disease.

Each year, “State of the Air” reports on the two most widespread outdoor air pollutants, ozone pollution and particle pollution. Each is dangerous to public health and each can be lethal. The 2019 “State of the Air” report found that more than 20 million people lived in counties that had unhealthy levels of air quality in all categories.

Particle Pollution
Unhealthy particles in the air result from many sources, including wildfires, wood-burning devices, coal-fired power plants and diesel engines. Particle pollution can be deadly. Technically known as PM2.5, these microscopic particles lodge deep in the lungs and can enter the bloodstream, triggering asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can cause lung cancer.

The report has two grades for particle pollution: One for “short-term” particle pollution, or daily spikes in the pollutant, and one for the annual average or “year-round” level that represents the concentration of particles day-in and day-out in each location.

Short-Term Particle Pollution
More cities experienced days when there were spikes in particle pollution, with eight cities of the 25 most-polluted reaching their highest number of such days in the report’s 20-year history: Fairbanks, Alaska; Salinas, CA; Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA; Missoula, Montana; Bismarck, ND; Bend-Pineville, OR; Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d’Alene, WA-ID; and Yakima, Washington. Wildfires in 2017, especially in Montana, Washington and California, and woodsmoke from heating homes contributed to many of these dangerous spikes. Bakersfield, CA, remained the #1 most polluted city for short-term particle levels, as it has for eight of the past 10 reports. Overall, daily spikes in particle pollution are getting more frequent, and, in many cases, more severe, with four days reaching hazardous, Maroon alert levels in 2017, the highest number ever. Nationwide, more than 49.6 million people suffered those episodes of unhealthy spikes in particle pollution in the 76 counties where they lived.

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution (24-hour PM2.5):

  1. Bakersfield, California
  2. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  3. Fairbanks, Alaska
  4. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  5. Missoula, Montana
  6. Yakima, Washington
  7. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  8. Salt Lake City-Provo-Orem, Utah
  9. Seattle-Tacoma, Washington
  10. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia

Year-Round Particle Pollution
More than 20.5 million people lived in counties with unhealthy levels of year-round particle pollution, which is more than in the last two annual “State of the Air” reports. Steps to clean up emissions that cause particle pollution helped reduce some averages. Meanwhile, major sources like agriculture, power plants and industrial sources still emit too much particulate matter, and wildfires in the western U.S. contributed to higher levels of particle pollution in several cities. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CA, topped the list as most polluted by year-round particle levels in this year’s report, tying its previous record for the highest level ever reached.

Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5):

  1. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  2. Bakersfield, California
  3. Fairbanks, Alaska
  4. Visalia, California
  5. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  6. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  7. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia
  8. El Centro, California
  9. Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio
  10. Medford-Grants Pass, Oregon

 Ozone Pollution
Ozone pollution, often referred to as smog, harms lung health, essentially causing a sunburn of the lung. Specifically, inhaling ozone pollution can cause shortness of breath, trigger coughing and asthma attacks, and may shorten life. Warmer temperatures make ozone more likely to form and harder to clean up.

Significantly more people suffered unhealthy ozone pollution in the 2019 report than in the last two “State of the Air” reports. Approximately 134 million people lived where they experienced too many high ozone days, the highest number of people exposed since the 2016 report. This report shows the changing climate’s impact on air quality, as ozone pollution worsened during the global record-breaking heat years tracked in the 2019 report.

Of the 10 most polluted cities for ozone, seven did worse than in last year’s report, including many of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Los Angeles’s air quality worsened, and it remains #1 for most ozone-polluted city in the nation. Only Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera-Hanford and San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland had fewer days with high ozone than in the 2018 report.

Top 10 Most Ozone-Polluted Cities:

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, California
  2. Visalia, California
  3. Bakersfield, California
  4. Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California
  5. Sacramento-Roseville, California
  6. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, California
  7. Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona
  8. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, California
  9. Houston-The Woodlands, Texas
  10. New York-Newark, New York–New Jersey-Connecticut-Pennsylvania

Cleanest Cities
The “State of the Air” also recognizes the nation’s cleanest cities, and just like last year’s report, only six cities qualified for that status. To rank as one of the nation’s cleanest cities, a city must experience no high ozone or high particle pollution days and must rank among the 25 cities with the lowest year-round particle pollution levels during 2015-2017.

Cleanest U.S. Cities (listed in alphabetical order)

  1. Bangor, Maine
  2. Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii
  4. Lincoln-Beatrice, Nebraska
  5. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida
  6. Wilmington, North Carolina

“Every American deserves to breathe healthy air that won’t make them sick. The American Lung Association calls on the Administration and Congress to protect and prioritize Americans’ health by taking urgent action to fight air pollution and address climate change,” Wimmer said.

Learn more about the 20th anniversary of the “State of the Air” report at Lung.org/sota. For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, healthy air, the health impacts of climate change and threats to air quality in metro regions nationwide, contact Allison MacMunn at the American Lung Association at Media@Lung.org or 312-801-7628.

Key Findings

State of the Air 2017: Key Findings

More than four in 10 people live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe.  Learn More

City Rankings

State of the Air 2017: City Rankings

Which cities have the highest levels of air pollution? Which are the cleanest? Check out the lists here.  Learn More

Health Risks

State of the Air 2017: Health Risks

Ozone and particle pollution are the most widespread pollutants—and among the most dangerous.  Learn More

For the Media

State of the Air 2017: For the Media

Journalists can access press releases, experts available for interview, b-roll, the full “State of the Air” report and more.  Learn More

 

Share...

    Stanford study explains how climate change widens gap between haves and have-nots

    New Stanford study shows a warming planet worsens global economic inequalities

    By LISA M. KRIEGER, Bay Area News Group, April 22, 2019

    The difference between the economic output of the world’s cool wealthy nations and hot struggling nations is 25 percent larger today than it would have been without global warming, according to researchers Noah Diffenbaugh and Marshall Burke.

    “Our results show that most of the poorest countries on Earth are considerably poorer than they would have been without global warming,” said climate scientist Diffenbaugh. “At the same time, the majority of rich countries are richer than they would have been.”

    Much of the debate over climate change focuses on future risks of flooding and other disasters. But this analysis, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows the price that many countries have already paid.

    Previous work found that during warm years, northern nations like Norway, Sweden and Iceland get an economic boost, while tropical and subtropical nations like India, Nigeria and Brazil suffer from slowed productivity.

    The new study takes a much broader and longer look at the impact of climate change. Although economic inequality between countries has decreased in recent decades, the gap would have narrowed faster without the problem, caused by growing concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.

    Climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, professor in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth) 

    For instance, India’s GDP — the aggregate value of the economy’s goods and services – is about 30 percent lower today than it would have been if there hadn’t been global warming, the researchers found. It’s 29 percent lower in Nigeria and 25 percent lower in Brazil.

    Norway’s GDP is 34 percent higher than in a world without climate change. It’s 32 percent higher in Canada and 9.5 percent higher in Great Britain.

    Agriculture explains much of the difference. In cool regions, warming lengthens the growing season and allows a greater diversity of crop species. In warm regions, heat reduces yield of commodity crops like corn, soybeans and wheat.

    But there are other contributors. Cool nations need to spend less money on energy to stay warm, while warm nations spend more money to stay cool.

    “Labor productivity declines when temperatures are high,” said Diffenbaugh. “There’s a decline in cognitive performance, as proven by student performance on standardized tests. There’s greater interpersonal conflict.”

    The research combines two approaches: A statistical analysis of the impact of temperature fluctuations on economic growth and 20 climate models created by research centers around the world and used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which advises the world’s governments under the auspices of the United Nations.

    The team calculated what each country’s economic output might have been had temperatures not warmed.

    For any particular nation, the annual impact is small, said Diffenbaugh.

    “But it is like a retirement account,” he said. “Small differences in what’s contributed 30, 40 or 50 years ago compounds, and creates a big difference in what is available when you retire.”

    While the biggest emitters enjoy on average about 10 percent higher per capita GDP today than they would have in a world without warming, the lowest emitters have been dragged down by about 25 percent.

    Such a drag “is on par with the decline in economic output seen in the U.S. during the Great Depression,” said Burke, Stanford assistant professor of Earth system science.

    “It’s a huge loss compared to where these countries would have been otherwise,” he said.

    Related Articles

    Share...

      New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe

      Repost from Bloomberg
      [Editor: Spectacular photos – click to enlarge.  – R.S.]

      Swedish forest fires, retreating glaciers and arid cropland attest to a new reality.

      By Jonathan Tirone, April 9, 2019, 5:05 AM PDT
      undefined
      Dust, sand and smoke hang over Portugal and Spain as seen from the International Space Station on 6 August 2018. Source: ESA

      Climate change is picking up pace in Europe, thrusting farmers and power generators onto the front lines of a battle with nature that threatens to upend the lives of the half billion people who occupy the world’s biggest trading bloc.

      Last year was the third hottest on record and underlines “the clear warming trend” experienced in the last four decades, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which operates a network of satellites for the European Union that collects weather, soil, air and water data.

      Copernicus lenses captured dozens of images illustrating how climate change is unfolding on Europe’s landscape. The images were made available to coincide with a gathering of 15,000 scientists in Vienna at an annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, which assesses the issue each year.

      The convention in the Austrian capital is a locus of discovery, where scientists present research and compare notes. The European Space Agency, which operates the Copernicus network, is boosting its 2019 presence after it developing a series of open-source data tools designed to help economies adapt to the hotter and drier seasons already impacting crop yields, power generation and river transport.

      Fires in Sweden
      Heatwaves and little rain led to rarely seen forest fires in Sweden in July 2018. Source: ESA

      Rainfall across central and northern Europe was 80 percent below average levels, resulting in agricultural losses and wildfires. Satellite photos showed dozens of Swedish forests burning in July that destroyed more than $100 million worth of woodland.

      “As temperatures rose during the year, so did the duration of sunshine,” Copernicus said in a statement. “Parts of central and northern Europe experienced up to 40 percent more sunshine hours than average with Germany being the sunniest on record.”

      Alpine Snowfall
      Cloudless days let Copernicus snap this shot across the 1,200-km Alps.  Source: ESA

      Not all of the impacts are negative. The preponderance of cloudless days in northern Europe helped Germans generate a record amount of solar power last year. Their 45 gigawatts of installed capacity provided Europe’s biggest economy with some 9 percent of its electricity while forcing utilities to integrate more variable flows of power from renewables onto their grids.

       

      But that sunshine took a toll on another source of European power—hydroelectricity. Alpine glaciers, whose melting waters help top off hydro power plants across Austria and Switzerland, are disappearing at a faster pace.

      “Glacier retreat would have a large impact on the Alps since glaciers are an important part of the region’s ecosystem, landscape and economy,” said Harry Zekollari, a climate scientist in Switzerland. “They attract tourists to the mountain ranges and act as natural fresh water reservoirs. Glaciers provide a source of water for hydroelectricity, which is especially important in warm and dry periods.”

      relates to New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe
      Copernicus data show aridity is likely to deepen and spread through mid century. Source: Copernicus Climate Change Service operated by ECMWF

      It’s because of those long-term weather trends that that the EU is trying to get more policy makers and businesses to use satellite data and imagery to help planning. Its data feeds Barcelona’s Vortex SL, which aids renewable energy developers to find places with the best wind currents and weather patterns before installing turbines and panels. Marex Spectron Group Ltd.use Copernicus data in forecasting coffee, sugar and cocoa yields. The EU project said it even helped Heineken NV brew a better beer by lowering the amount of water it needs in the process.

       

      relates to New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe
      Lush Belgian fields in July 2017 were scorched by heat a year later. Source: ESA

      The pain felt by European farmers was evident from space, according to Copernicus, which published images showing how the normally lush cropland of central and northern Europe were burnt crisp by heat and lack of rain.

       

      “Dry conditions were especially persistent in Germany, where the April-September period was the second-driest on record, leading to heavy agricultural production losses,” the scientists wrote.

      In order to avoid the catastrophic effects of runaway climate change—rising seas, super-storms, famine and war—the world needs to invest some $2.4 trillion a year through 2035 in order to cut fossil fuel emissions. Even a rise of 1.5 degrees would have massive consequences, including a “multi-meter rise in sea levels” over hundreds to thousands of years and a mass extinction of plants and animals.

      relates to New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe
      Different crop types around Emmelrod in the Netherlands. Green shows summer crops, red is potatoes, orange is market crops, yellow is cereals and blue depicts grassland. Source: ESA

      To avoid the worst outcomes posed by living on a hotter and drier planet, Copernicus is trying to help farmers by giving them access to satellite images overlaid with data, which could help agriculture identify crop strains that can keep up with the changing climate.

      Countries need to “develop and consolidate innovative approaches, tools and methods for characterizing high-impact events and quantify loss and damage,” according to the World Meteorological Organization’s state of the climate report.

      Silted Bay
      Farm runoff silting up the bay by Mont-Saint-Michel during planting season. Source: ESA

       

      Share...