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Red Alert: 3 Strategies for Reducing Toxic Ozone Pollution

first_imgHigh up in the stratosphere, naturally occurring ozone reflects solar radiation back into space, protecting people and the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays. But closer to Earth’s surface, rising ozone levels – formed when pollutants from a wide range of sources react with each other – blanket cities in smog. Today, most of the global population breathes unhealthy air, with ground-level ozone pollution accounting for nearly half a million early deaths worldwide in 2017 alone. Short-term exposure to this greenhouse gas can cause a host of respiratory problems, from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to emphysema, and like many environmental health challenges, as ozone pollution increases, so will the consequences for people in less-developed countries.Ground-level, or tropospheric, ozone pollution also threatens critical ecosystems like forests, contributes to rising global temperatures and damages crop production by reducing plants’ ability to turn sunlight into growth. From 2010 to 2012, for example, increased amounts of ozone reduced global yields of staple grains, such as wheat, rice and maize, by 227 metric tonnes. Climate change only intensifies these impacts as rising temperatures and shifting weather patterns will increase the number of days with high ozone concentrations.But reducing ozone pollution poses complex governance challenges.Many countries implement air quality standards to protect citizens’ health. But these regulations often exceed the World Health Organization’s guidelines for safe ground-level ozone concentrations: 50 parts per billion (ppb) over an eight-hour average. European governments set the threshold at 60 ppb, while the limit stands at 70 ppb in the United States and 75 ppb in China. And in many countries, officials often struggle to enforce even these weaker regulations.These regulations are difficult to enforce, because unlike many other air pollutants, ozone is not directly emitted. Instead, volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides released from vehicles, power plants, industrial processes, landfills and other biomass and fossil fuel burning facilities react with sunlight to form this secondary pollutant. Thus, ozone levels depend on background conditions as well as emissions. They can spike during warmer, sunnier months, even if emissions remain the same, and can increase during or after rush hour, depending on what kinds of fuel are used. Ozone precursors and ozone itself also move with the wind, making it virtually impossible for cities or regions to independently reduce ozone pollution.Sector-specific technological measures – vapor recovery nozzles at gasoline pumps, cleaner-burning fuels, strong vehicle inspection programs and strict emission limits for refineries, industrial emissions and combustion sources – all can help control ozone pollution and have contributed to lower emissions over the last three decades. But while ozone levels have dropped in much of North America and Europe, places like China, India and southern Europe are grappling with some of the worst air pollution ever, and many cities that successfully reduced ozone levels are now struggling to keep lowering it. Tackling these high ozone levels will require management strategies that improve governance and its precursors. Three approaches can help. Ozone monitoring at Ushuaia Station, Argentina. Photo by World Meteorological Organization1. Better Monitoring of Ozone LevelsWhile most developed countries have basic frameworks to monitor air quality, challenges for developing countries include: poor air quality monitoring networks, too few monitoring stations, incomplete data due to limited placement of stations and a shortage of skilled staff to maintain the equipment. Innovative monitoring initiatives include using satellite-based observations, alongside chemical computer models to measure emissions of the gases that contribute to ozone formation. The Tropospheric Ozone Assessment Report project, for example, combines data from over 4,800 monitoring stations around the world to create an open-access database, enabling decision-makers to analyze ozone trends in both urban and rural areas in the Global North. Extending coverage of these monitoring stations to developing countries can provide more of the data needed to reduce ozone concentrations.2. Coordinated, Transboundary StrategiesBecause ozone moves with the wind across borders, cooperation across administrative boundaries at regional, national and subnational levels helps ensure that management practices actually improve air quality and public health. The Ozone Transport Commission is one good example, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address regional pollution across 37 eastern states. Similarly, in their 2000 Air Quality Agreement, the Canadian and U.S. governments committed to address transboundary, ground-level ozone by reducing emissions of nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds in an area that includes parts of Ontario and Quebec, 18 states and the District of Columbia. In Mexico, the Mexico City Metropolitan Area has had programs to reduce ozone since 1995.Similar regional networks designed to help manage urban air quality exist around the world, though most are not specific to ground-level ozone. The Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities aims to improve urban air quality by increasing public awareness, supporting the development of air quality standards and strengthening capacity to implement these policies. Across the Americas, the Intergovernmental Network on Air Pollution for Latin America and the Caribbean exchanges technical and policy information among environment ministers, harmonizes management and monitoring strategies, and supports implementation of a regional action plan.In every case, the available legal, financial, social and structural policy instruments vary. Establishing a cooperative, transboundary mechanism is essential to tailor action plans to local conditions and mobilize agencies to work together to lower ozone pollution.3. Engagement with Civil Society and Citizen ActionCivil society can play a vital role to drive community-level behavior and advocate for new policies, supporting green infrastructure development, encouraging more people to use public transport and investing in cycling infrastructure.Raising public awareness is key. For example, ozone gardens with plants that develop yellow, brown and black spots when exposed to ozone over time let people see the effects of long-term ozone pollution. They make a largely invisible problem visible.Join the ConversationCleaning up ground-level ozone will require integration across geographies, precursor pollutants and sectors and a comprehensive, inclusive pollution governance plan. Better monitoring, cooperative multi-juridical management, implementation of sector-specific control strategies and inclusive participation by civil society and local communities are all part of this approach. WRI will continue to explore how to put these pieces together to clean up toxic air in an upcoming Greening Governance Seminar. Please join us.last_img read more


first_img 107 Comments   Share   Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires That protest movement ballooned Sunday following Trump’s weekend rant that began with him calling for NFL protesters to be fired. It continued Saturday with the president rescinding a White House invitation for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, who had said they were considering not attending.By Sunday, it was one of the main topics of conversation on social media and around the country.In Charlotte, North Carolina, more than a dozen New Orleans Saints players sat during the anthem, including star running back Adrian Peterson. In Buffalo, New York, more than half the Denver Broncos knelt during the anthem and a handful of Buffalo Bills sat or knelt.In Minneapolis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson knelt with the rest of the team locking arms during the “Star Spangled Banner.” The Minnesota Vikings also locked arms. Although no Vikings were spotted taking a knee during the anthem, at least a dozen players sprinted into one end zone and took a knee with head bowed, before the crowd was asked to stand.On Sunday, NFL owners continued issuing statements condemning the president’s divisive words and players took part in displays of unity across the league. The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to stay in their locker room for the national anthem before their game against the Chicago Bears. A host of Browns players demonstrate pregame in Indy. pic.twitter.com/McNxeMGKvu— Scott @ WFNY (@WFNYScott) September 24, 2017 A group of Saints players remains seated during the national anthem. pic.twitter.com/3NsTiiBWBK— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 24, 2017The reactions reverberated across the Atlantic, where about two dozen players, including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before the start of the teams’ game at Wembley Stadium in London.Other players on both teams and Jaguars owner Shad Khan remained locked arm-in-arm throughout the playing of the national anthem and “God Save The Queen.” No players were kneeling during the British anthem.Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first athlete to refuse to stand during the national anthem as a protest to police treatment of minorities last year. This season, no team has signed him, and some supporters believe NFL owners are avoiding him because of the controversy. Whole bunch of Patriots players are kneeling. There are some boos in the crowd pic.twitter.com/nLkc6TeQRh— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) September 24, 2017 Top Stories Sports hasn’t been immune from America’s deep political rifts, but the president’s delving into the NFL protests started by Kaepernick brought new attention.After the Warriors White House invite was rescinded, the National Hockey League’s reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins announced they did accept a White House invitation from Trump.In a statement released Sunday morning, the Penguins said they respect the office of the president and “the long tradition of championship team visiting the White House.” The Penguins were honored by Barack Obama after winning the Stanley Cup in 2016 and previously by George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s.Wading into thorny issues of race and politics, Trump’s comments in a Friday night speech in Huntsville, Alabama, and a series of Saturday tweets drew sharp responses from some of the nation’s top athletes, with LeBron James calling the president a “bum.” Hours later, Major League Baseball saw its first player take a knee during the national anthem.“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,’” Trump said to loud applause Friday night at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, comments he kept echoing over the next two days.center_img Baltimore Ravens strong safety Tony Jefferson (23) and Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon, left, kneel down with teammates during the playing of the U.S. national anthem before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Sept. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) President Donald Trump’s criticism of players who protest during the national anthem incited a mass increase in such activism Sunday, with more than 100 NFL players sitting or kneeling, others raising their fists and whole teams standing with locked arms to display unity.One team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, stayed in the locker room during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”Last week across the entire NFL, only four players knelt or sat, and two stood with their fists raised. In the nine early games Sunday, AP reporters counted 102 players kneeling or sitting, and at least three raising their fists. Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” the president said in a Sunday morning tweet.Trump also mocked the league’s crackdown on illegal hits, suggesting the league had softened because of its safety initiatives, which stem from an increased awareness of the devastating effects of repeated hits to the head.The league and its players, often at odds, have been united in condemning the president’s criticisms, with commissioner Roger Goodell saying Saturday that “divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended Trump’s attacks Sunday, saying on ABC’s “This Week” that the president thinks “owners should have a rule that players should have to stand in respect for the national anthem.” Mnuchin added that “they can do free speech on their own time.”New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who’s been a strong supporter of the president, expressed “deep disappointment” with Trump on Sunday. Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impactlast_img read more