Climate 411

New analysis: Americans across the country suffered from high ozone pollution levels of this summer

In addition to checking the temperature and the chance of rain before leaving home, many people have been forced to add a new indicator to their daily weather check – air quality.

Ground-level ozone pollution – more commonly known as smog – reached dangerous levels across the U.S. this summer. EDF’s new analysis found that almost every state experienced unhealthy levels of it, with millions of Americans exposed to dangerous air pollution.

The current national standard for ground-level ozone pollution is 70 parts per billion. As you can see from the maps above, 45 states had at least one day between March and August with levels that exceeded that limit.

However, there is a substantial and growing body of scientific evidence that shows serious health effects from ground-level ozone exposure at levels below the current standard. When the data is expanded to consider ground-level ozone levels greater than 60 parts per billion, which would be a health-based standard more consistent with the scientific evidence, the picture of summer ozone levels is even more concerning – all but one state (Hawaii) had at least one day with levels that exceeded that amount.

Our analysis also found:

  • The Western U.S. experienced the worst ozone levels in the country this summer. California, Arizona and Colorado experienced the most high-ozone days between March and August.
  • 343 counties recorded at least one high-ozone day. San Bernardino, California recorded the most exceedances – 112 high-ozone days between March and August, including almost every day in July and August.
  • More than 31 million people live in the 24 counties that had more than 20 high-ozone days between March and August, including Denver County in Colorado, Maricopa County in Arizona, and Los Angeles County in California.
  • If you use the more health-protective standard of 60 parts per billion, a majority of days between March and April had unhealthy ozone levels across the Western U.S.
  • In Arizona, under the 60 parts per billion standard, 89% of days between March and August had unhealthy ozone levels somewhere in the state.

(See the full analysis here)

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Also posted in Health, News, Policy, Smog / Leave a comment

Oregon’s Climate Protection Program must live up to its name

As Oregon faces another out of control wildfire season, the state’s lead environmental agency, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), just released regulatory language for its Climate Protection Program, a program intended to be a pillar of the state’s strategy to meet the ambitious climate goals Governor Brown committed the state to in 2020.

The stakes are high for this critical rulemaking, which will decide whether Oregon truly follows through on its climate commitments. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Governor Brown wrote that Oregon is “working to lead the way” on climate change. With the latest IPCC report underscoring how climate change is affecting every inhabited region across the globe and how many damaging impacts are accelerating, we are at a moment where climate leadership is desperately needed.

But at this critical moment, the DEQ’s proposed Climate Protection Program falls far short of what we expect from effective climate action. There’s still time for the program to be strengthened as the public comment period for the program is only just beginning, but Oregon’s decision-makers must ensure that the Climate Protection Program will deliver the swift, equitable and ambitious climate action that Oregon needs.

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Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

California needs to raise its ambition to beat the climate crisis. This policy will be key.

This post was authored with Katie Schneer, High Meadows Fellow for subnational climate policy at EDF, and Mayu Takeuchi, intern for U.S. Climate at EDF.

This summer, as Californians face an onslaught of climate-fueled disasters like severe drought and explosive wildfires, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is launching the development of a roadmap that will outline the next phase of the state’s climate fight.

The 2022 Climate Change Scoping Plan, which will guide the state towards achieving its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target and its 2045 net-zero emissions target, is a critical opportunity for California to double-down on its climate ambition. State leaders should harness this moment to calibrate California’s suite of climate policies to ensure that the state not only meets its climate goals, but maximizes cuts in emissions this decade.

California’s cap-and-trade program, which launched in 2013, is one of the key policies that should be fine-tuned to respond to the urgency of the climate crisis that Californians are seeing across the state. CARB should act swiftly to ensure that the most important aspect of this program — the emissions cap — is stringent enough to ensure that California meets its 2030 emissions goal of a 40% reduction below 1990 the emissions level and delivers the most reductions in pollution as quickly as possible.

Here’s why CARB should tighten the emissions cap:

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Also posted in California, Carbon Markets, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Read 1 Response

Climate change threatens Louisiana’s future, but the state is taking bold action to increase its resilience

Louisiana has lost 2,000 square miles of coastal wetlands in less than a century, threatening communities from sea level rise and more intense hurricanes. Photo: Leslie Von Pless, EDF

Louisiana represents the paradox of a modern state shaped by a history of fossil fuel-supported development and structural racism that is now dealing with the climate-driven and social impacts of those choices.

As it attempts to do so, it has become a center of climate adaptation and resilience practices, and more recently, climate mitigation efforts, while seeking the right balance for its people, economy and environment.

The results so far look like this:

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Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Extreme Weather, News, Science / Comments are closed

This Fourth of July, we have an opportunity for independence from harmful vehicle pollution

Photo by Pixabay

As millions of Americans hit the road this weekend to visit loved ones and celebrate the Fourth of July, there is increasing reason for optimism that our road trips of the future will be in vehicles that do not emit any pollution.

This past week, the Environmental Protection Agency sent proposed motor vehicle emissions standards to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The proposed action will include strengthened pollution standards for new passenger vehicles through model year 2026, which will reduce climate and health-harming pollution and help correct the prior administration’s rollbacks to our nation’s clean car standards.

EPA’s proposed standards will be an important, near-term step forward.

But the Biden administration has an even bigger opportunity in front of it – to clearly articulate a bold, long-term vision to eliminate tailpipe pollution from new motor vehicles, one that ensures at least 60% of new passenger cars and trucks sold in the U.S. by 2030 are zero-emitting and that all new vehicles sold by 2035 are zero-emitting.

Realizing this vision would have enormous benefits for Americans’ health, the climate, and our pocketbooks:

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Also posted in California, Cars and Pollution, Green Jobs, Jobs, News, Policy / Read 1 Response

What Pennsylvania’s move toward a clean energy future means for the region

This blog was co-authored by Taylor Bacon, Analyst with the U.S. Clean Air team at EDF.

Editor’s note: This post was last updated Sept 27, 2021.

As Pennsylvania moves forward with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), questions are being raised about how this will impact Pennsylvania’s neighbors: West Virginia and Ohio. Will coal plant jobs be lost to these states? And will emissions from Pennsylvania shift there too?

While ultimately, to achieve our climate goals, we need power generation across the country covered by a program that reduces carbon pollution, Pennsylvania’s move to tackle carbon pollution now — before states like Ohio and West Virginia — will help the state prepare to be a leader in the zero carbon future and protect the communities that are impacted by the energy transition already underway.

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Posted in Cities and states / Read 3 Responses