In a recent speech, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that climate change is one of the most serious issues facing our world today and that he considers it "the greatest challenge of our generation." Following his visit to China last week, Kerry focused back on the State of the Union address by U.S. President Barack Obama, stating climate change is an undeniable fact. China, the top producer of greenhouse gas emissions, and the US will share "information and policies so that we can help develop plans to deal with the U.N. climate change negotiation that takes place in Paris next year."
The condition of the air in China has long been a source of concern, brought to the forefront during the Olympic games in Beijing in 2008. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 65%-70% of China's energy sources comes from coal and China is second only to the United States as an energy producer. The Chinese government revised air quality standards which will progressively require cities to meet the restrictions by 2015. The standard includes 8-hour standards for ambient air monitoring of ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM) 2.5, which are considered "fine" particulates that are the most harmful. As of 2013, two thirds of cities do not yet conform to the new standard. Studies by the WHO and others show that a million Chinese die every year due to the effects of interior and exterior air pollution.
In response to the lack of willingness of the Chinese government to share detailed information, the U.S. embassy in Beijing began posting air quality measurements gathered at the embassy in real time, both on its website and through a twitter account (@BeijingAir). Chinese officials had disputed the American data, however Chinese citizens and environmental groups continued to press for data to be gathered and shared. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy visited one of the most affected cities, Shanghai, back in December. China is looking for help as the heavy pollution threatens to turn away foreign investors. McCarthy discussed shale development and the use of natural gas to reduce pollutants.
It appears that the concern of the long term effects on not addressing pollution is beginning to instigate change. Just this month, Beijing has ordered 15,000 factories to begin providing data regarding their emissions to the public in real-time. Also, China's Cabinet announced $1.6 billion in incentives has been set aside for companies that are making strides to cut their emissions. At the same time, the official Xinhua News Agency said 300 polluting factories were slated to be shut down in Beijing during 2014.
Although these are excellent first steps, it will take international collaboration to clear the air because pollution wafts in from the surrounding regions.
image source: Shanghai Rela Time Air Quality (2/17/2014 1:55 PM EST), http://www.semc.gov.cn/aqi/home/English.aspx
A recent article on the quality of the air in China began with this frighening statistic: Outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in
in 2010, nearly 40 percent of the global total. Brought into the headlines during the Beijing Olympics, the poor quality of the air in China is nothing new.
In February 2012, the China State Council passed ambient air quality standards, GB 3095-2012. The goal of these improved standards is to improve both the environment and the health of those living there. with the aim of improving the living environment and protecting human health. For the first time, particulates with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less, also known as PM2.5, is included in the standards. PM2.5 are the smallest particulate matter and penetrate the body’s tissues most deeply. Once inhaled, the particles may cause respiratory infections and are especially dangerous for children and the elderly, as well as those with existing respiratoy issues. Ozone levels are also set in the standard with the new 8 hour ozone standards matching the interim targets set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
For years, Chinese officials had been collecting the data but failed to release it publically. The US embassy in Beijing posts automated air quality measurements on an hourly basis at @beijingair. Last June, there was debate over the accuracy of the readings due to large disparagies between the readings by Chinese officials and the embassy. Chinese authorities asked that they and other stop publishing, what they described as "inaccurate and unlawful" data.
By early this year, many news reports emerged that the air quality in Beijing has reached hazard ous levels. With 100 being the maximum "safe" level and 300 being a level at which those at risk should remain indoors, reports in Beijing ranged from 400-800 micrograms.
The timeline for implementing the new standards is January 2016. Some cities may be required to implement the changes ahead of this date, as determined by Ministry of Environmental Protection. Overall, provinces are being encouraged to implement the new standards as soon as they are ready.
Here in CT, we are entering the months where unhealthy air quality emerges with the heat levels this summer. The American Lung Association has released an new advertising campaign featuring TV, online and billboard ads announcing the new State of the Air® smartphone application. The app, available for iPhone and Android, allows users to view EPA collected data on the air quality at their current location or at any other location of choice. Read this post to learn more about this data. The app is being praises as a user-friendly resource for people for low air quality affects most profoundly, those living with lung disease (such as asthma, people with heart disease or diabetes and the elderly and children.
ALA of the Northeast President and CEO, Jeff Seyler, was quoted to say, “We are excited to be able to provide this innovative tool so those with lung disease, and without, can effectively monitor their local air quality and limit their exposure to dangerous levels of pollution.”
The State of the Air app provides both the current and next-day air quality forecasts. Users can set alerts to notify them when the local air quality fails to a code orange, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Along with the quality information, the app provides tips on what activities are to be avoided depending on the current conditions.
The television and online messages are aimed at young people. They feature Alvin Grimes, an air collector, who collects air samples in glass jars. The promos tie into the ALA tagline "What are your lungs collecting?" "Alvin" has his own, twitter account and facebook page where he shares tips and information on air and air pollution. The TV spots can be viewed on his youtube page (one example below).
To learn more about Ozone and how it is generated at ground level, check out this story and its follow-up piece!
Image and Video - courtesy of the American Lung Association
Yesterday at EPA Headquarters, the President's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) FY 2013 budget request was announced by Administrator Lisa Jackson and her senior staff. The proposal allocates $8.344 billion, with is a reduction of $105 million from the approved FY 2012 budget. Elimination of completed programs and consolidation of others accounts for $50 million of that reduction.
In reaction to the proposal, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson echoed the President's message of "an America built to last." Jackson said, “This budget is focused on fulfilling EPA’s core mission to protect health and the environment for millions of American families. It demonstrates fiscal responsibility, while still supporting clean air, healthy waters and innovative safeguards that are essential to an America built to last.”
The EPA calls out eight key areas in the FY2013 proposed budget:
Support of States through grants to allow implementation of front line projects under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts ($1.2 billion, an increase over FY 2012)
Protecting America's Waters primarily through funding of wastewater and drinking water programs as well as infrastructure projects including green projects ($2 billion)
Contaminated Site Clean-up through funding of the Superfund Cleanup programs (both emergent and remedial), and will focus on compliance ($755 million)
Research and Innovation in the Science and Technology in a wide variety of arenas ($807 million)
Continued Support of "Economically and Environmentally Vital Water Bodies," including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay ($373 million)
Harmful Chemical assessment and risk reduction ($68 million, an increase of $11 million over FY 2012)
"Next Generation Compliance," which focuses on electronic reporting, data collection and monitoring, with a goal of cost savings, improved compliance and transparency ($36 million)
National Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Standards program funding to research new biofuel and renewable technologies and for compliance and certification of fuel economy and emissions, all with the goal of reducing dependence on oil ($102 million, a $10 million increase over FY 2012)
Jackson reviewed the EPA will continue to streamline so that while working with less, they can maintain the commitment to the EPA's core goals.
You can view the announcement on the EPA's site, including a brief Q&A, or read more here.
Image - Still from EPA Announcement: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/20429324