Humanity is running out of time to stop the most dangerous impacts of global warming. Signs of global warming are appearing around the world – including in the United States – and the latest science suggests that future impacts are likely to occur sooner and be more severe than previously thought.
All Americans should be able to breathe clean air. But pollution from power plants and vehicles puts the health of our nation’s children and families at risk. Ground-level ozone, the main component of smog, is one of the most harmful and one of the most pervasive air pollutants. According to the American Lung Association, nearly half of all Americans – 48 percent – still live in areas with unhealthy levels of smog pollution. Studies show that on days with high concentrations of smog pollution in the air, children and adults suffer more asthma attacks, increased respiratory difficulty, and reduced lung function. Exposure to smog pollution can exacerbate respiratory illness and even cause premature death. Sensitive populations including children, the elderly, and people with respiratory illness are particularly at risk of the adverse health effects of air pollution.
America’s dependence on oil inflicts a heavy toll on our environment – polluting our ocean waters, destroying natural landscapes and fouling our air. With oil companies taking greater and greater risks to satisfy the world’s demand for oil, the environmental toll of America’s oil dependence continues to rise.
The Northeast faces two fundamental and intertwined challenges: fossil fuel dependence and pollution from fossil fuels. Our dependence on coal, oil, and gas imposes economic costs, pollutes our air and water, and harms public health. It also contributes to global warming, which threatens the future of our coastal cities with sea-level rise, the future of our beloved ecosystems with the loss of habitats and species, and the well-being of our people with extreme weather events and new threats to public health.
Dirty energy pollutes the air we breathe, threatening our health and our environment. When power plants burn coal, oil or gas, they create the ingredients for ground-level ozone pollution, one of the main components of “smog” pollution. Especially on hot summer days, across wide areas of the United States, ozone pollution reaches levels that are unhealthy to breathe, putting our lives at risk. In 2009, U.S. power plants emitted more than 1.9 million tons of ozone-forming nitrogen oxide pollution into the air. In order to better protect public health, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should issue a new air quality standard to reduce ground-level ozone pollution.