AIR

AIR


Greenhouse gases have kept the Earth’s climate habitable for humans and millions of other species by trapping heat from the sunThese gases  carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4— act like a blanket absorbing the sun’s energy and not allowing it to escape into space. This was essentially positive until the Industrial Revolution, when, as humans began burning fossil fuels, the release of gases into the air accelerated beyond the Earth’s ability to absorb them.

This release of gases into the atmosphere has decreased the quality of the air we breathe, creating many health risks. Polluted air is shown to damage mental health in children and adults. And, as heat accelerates, so do respiratory and lung illnesses due to climate change related wildfires and smogAs the concentrations of heat grow ever greater, the Earth will change which living things can survive on this planet — and where.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 (amended in 1977 and 1990) was designed to protect human health and the environment from the effects of air pollution. In August 2019, the EPA under the Trump administration, seeking to dismantle the Clean Air Act, moved to deregulate methane, revoke California’s vehicle emissions standards, and more. All of this was done despite the fact that CO2 is currently at the highest levels ever recorded.

President Joe Biden delivered a slew of clean air and carbon issues as top environmental priorities for his administration in a new executive order signed on his inauguration. In it agencies were directed to examine dozens of Trump-era rules, including carbon emission, clear air rollbacks and Clean Air Act rules.

The U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit handed Biden a huge win on Jan. 19 when it struck down President Donald Trump’s carbon rule for coal-fired power plants. The new White House now has a fresh start to craft greenhouse gas standards for existing sources.

And, GM gave Biden another win when they followed with an announcement that they would shift to producing 100% electric vehicles by 2035. 

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

WMO AIR QUALITY AND CLIMATE BULLETIN

09/01/21
Ongoing climate change, caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gasses.

Particulate Matter (PM) Pollution

06/11/21
Health and Environmental Effects of Particulate Matter (PM). The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Small particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because…
EPA

Epa moves forward with phase down of climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons

05/03/21
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing its first rule under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2020 to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), highly potent greenhouse gases…

MethaneEmissions: A Primer

12/21/20
Methane: The ChemicalMethaneis the world’s simplest hydrocarbon,with achemical formula CH4(one atom of carbon and four atoms of hydrogen). It is gaseous under normal atmospheric conditions and iscommonly produced through the decomposition of organic materials in…

Real-time Air Quality Index

09/09/19
Search for statistics and air conditions anywhere in the world. 

EarthJustice: The Fight for Clean Air

09/09/19
The Clean Air Act gives us all the legal right to breathe clean, healthy air. We demand clean air now.

Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know

09/09/19
How smog, soot, greenhouse gases, and other top air pollutants are affecting the planet—and your health.
EPA

Technical Air Pollution Resources

09/09/19
This website provides access to a collection of EPA resources with technical information about many areas of air pollution prevention, technology, regulation, measurement, and science.

MORE NEWS

How Air Pollution Across America Reflects Racist Policy From the 1930s

By Raymond Zhong and Nadja Popovich  Photo: Jeff Chiu , Associated Press   03/09/22  
Urban neighborhoods that were redlined by federal officials in the 1930s tended to have higher levels of harmful air pollution eight decades later, a new study has found, adding to a body of evidence that…

As Evidence of Cap and Trade Problems Mounts, California Air Regulators Remain Defiant

By Aaron Cantu  Photo : Hal Bergman   02/24/22  
At a state Senate hearing on Wednesday, top regulators dismissed concerns about the ability of California’s cap and trade program to help the state meet its climate goals. The hearing focused on a recent report…

The life-or-death implications of curbing air pollution from power plants

By Maxine Joselow  Photo: J. David Ake/AP   02/01/22  
The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday affirmed its authority to regulate emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from the power sector. It's easy to frame Monday's move as an abstract regulatory decision by Washington…

EPA Takes Action to Combat Industrial Air Pollution

By Ava Kofman and Lisa Song  Photo: Kathleen Flynn   01/26/22  
The Environmental Protection Agency launched sweeping changes this week to address long-standing problems brought to light by ProPublica’s reporting on industrial air pollution. Shortly after the November publication of our investigation, administrator Michael S. Regan…

EPA announces ‘bold’ action to monitor pollution in ‘Cancer Alley’

By Darryl Fears  Photo: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert   01/26/22  
Two months after touring “environmental justice” communities in three southern states, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan on Wednesday announced bold steps to address complaints from residents about tainted drinking water, chemical plants near homes…

Americans agree on something: Get single-use plastics out of our national parks

By Brian Bienkowski   01/14/22  
About 82% of U.S. voters support stopping the sale of single-use plastics at national parks, according to a poll released today by the non-profit Oceana. U.S. national parks average 33 million visitors and nearly 70…

Societal shifts due to COVID-19 reveal large-scale complexities and feedbacks between atmospheric chemistry and climate change

By Joshua L. Laughner and others   11/12/21  
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns caused significant changes to human activity that temporarily altered our imprint on the atmosphere, providing a brief glimpse of potential future changes in atmospheric composition. This event demonstrated key…

‘They’re killing our children’: mothers from around the world demand action on fossil fuels

By Damian Carrington and Nina Lakhani   11/05/21  
It may have been his toughest meeting yet. A delegation of mothers from all over the world, all of whom had seen their own children suffer health damage from air pollution, met the Cop26 president,…

Poison in the Air

By Lylla Younes and others  Photo: Kathleen Flynn   11/02/21  
From the urban sprawl of Houston to the riverways of Virginia, air pollution from industrial plants is elevating the cancer risk of an estimated quarter of a million Americans to a level the federal government…

Wildfire smoke poses serious health hazard. But your indoor air can be kept clean

By Bernard J. Wolfson  Photo: Burak Arik   10/09/21  
The fierce wildfires that broke out across much of the western United States this summer, spreading smoke across hundreds of miles, continue to pose a serious health hazard to millions. More are expected this fall.…
AP

UN health agency sets higher, tougher bar for air quality

By Jamey Keaten And Drew Costley  Photo: Brian Inganga, File   09/22/21  
The harmful health effects of air pollution kick in at lower levels than previously thought, the World Health Organization said Wednesday as it set a new standard for policymakers and the public in the first…

Cutting air pollution levels could raise life expectancy by 2 years: study

By Sharon Udasin   09/01/21  
Reducing global air pollution levels to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines would boost average life expectancy by 2.2 years, a new study has found.
CNN

Air pollution is cutting more years from people’s lives than smoking, war or HIV/AIDS

By Sheena McKenzie   09/01/21  
Air pollution is slashing years from billions of people's lives around the world and is a greater threat to life expectancy than smoking, HIV/AIDS or war, a report published Wednesday shows. In countries where air…

Lake Tahoe Suffocates With Smoke

By Thomas Fuller and Shawn Hubler  Photo: Max Whittaker for The New York Times   08/27/21  
Smoke from the Caldor fire is overwhelming one of California’s most iconic regions — and confounding thousands of newcomers who fled there in recent months to escape the coronavirus.

Gaps in US wildfire smoke warning network leave many exposed

By Matthew Brown and Padmananda Rama  Photo: Matthew Brown , AP   08/26/21  
 Huge gaps between air quality sensors in the western U.S. have created blind spots in the warning system for wildfire smoke plumes sweeping North America this summer, amid growing concern over potential health impacts to…

Wildfire smoke leads to worst air quality on record in Nevada counties

By Celine Castronuovo   08/24/21  
Wildfires continuing to spread across California have pushed smoke across to neighboring states, with several Nevada counties reporting their worst air quality index (AQI) levels on record this week.

The Ashes of the Dixie Fire Cast a Pall 1,000 Miles From Its Flames

By Livia Albeck-Ripka  Photo: Jungho Kim   08/09/21  
Captured by an astronaut’s camera, the Dixie Fire appears as a thick and sickening miasma pouring from the earth’s surface. At its center in the eastern mountains of California, the fire is devouring acre after…

See How Wildfire Smoke Spread Across America

By Nadja Popovich and Josh Katz  Photo: Global Systems Laboratory   07/21/21  
Wildfire smoke from Canada and the Western United States stretched across the continent this week, covering skies in a thick haze and triggering health alerts from Toronto to Philadelphia. Air quality remained in the unhealthy…

Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know

By Jillian Mackenzie and Jeff Turrentine   06/22/21  
Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air—pollutants which are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year air pollution is…

Data from the recent heat wave reveal troubling trends

By Sabrina Shankman  Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg   06/20/21  
When smothering heat and humidity overtake the cool of spring, a familiar quest for relief begins, usually a trek to the basement or attic to dig out the window unit that’s been dormant all winter,…

New Arctic Council Reports Underline the Growing Concerns About the Health and Climate Impacts of Polar Air Pollution

By Bob Berwyn  Photo: Heïdi Sevestre   05/20/21  
The Arctic is now warming three times as fast as the global average, and faces an ongoing barrage of dangerous climate and environmental pollutants, Arctic Council experts warned at the start of their meetings in…

Biden Administration to Repeal Trump Rule Aimed at Curbing E.P.A.’s Power

By Lisa Friedman  Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters   05/13/21  
The cost-benefit rule limited the way the E.P.A. could justify clean air regulations.

Meat production leads to thousands of air quality-related deaths annually

By Sarah Gibbens   05/11/21  
Air pollution remains a major cause of death in the United States, one usually associated with tailpipe exhaust and factory and power plant smokestacks. Now new research shows that 16,000 U.S. deaths are the result…

Air pollution from farms leads to 17,900 U.S. deaths per year, study finds

By Sarah Kaplan  Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg News   05/10/21  
The smell of hog feces was overwhelming, Elsie Herring said. The breezes that wafted from the hog farm next to her mother’s Duplin County, N.C., home carried hazardous gases: methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide.

An effort to clear up the air

By Tony Barboza  Photo: Gina Ferazzi   05/05/21  
Roxana Barrera realized air pollution was a problem in her San Bernardino neighborhood when her son Leo got really sick just before his first birthday. He was wheezing so much she had to rush him…
BBC

The state of the climate in 2021

By Isabelle Gerretsen  Photo: Getty Images   01/10/21  
After the turbulent year of 2020, BBC Future takes stock on the state of the climate at the beginning of 2021.

Trump administration keeps existing smog limits, rejecting calls to toughen them

By Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni  Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images   12/23/20  
At least 120 million Americans live in communities that don't meet current federal standards for clear air.

Seeing the COVID-19 Pandemic from Space

By Abigail Seadler   12/16/20  
Economic and social shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to noticeable changes in Earth’s environment, at least for the short term. NASA researchers are using satellite and ground-based observations to track these…

Trump administration rejects tougher standards on soot, a deadly air pollutant

By Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis   12/07/20  
The Trump administration on Monday rejected setting tougher standards on soot, the nation’s most widespread deadly air pollutant, saying the existing regulations remain sufficient even though some public health experts and environmental justice organizations had…

Brad Mortensen: Working toward clean air and a safe climate for all

By Brad Mortensen   10/16/20  
Together we can tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges and do great things, making our homes and our community better for all.

Following ‘The Utah Roadmap’: Local leaders say signing Utah’s first Climate, Clean Air Compact is ‘the first step’

By Kat Webb   10/16/20  
Mayor Holly Daines of Logan signed Utah’s first Climate and Clean Air Compact on Oct. 7, and local advocates say it’s just the first step to address the issues.

Utah takes bold step in addressing climate and clean air solutions

10/08/20  
In an unprecedented move in the conservative state of Utah, more than 100 of the state's most prominent leaders came together virtually on Wednesday to sign the inaugural Utah Climate and Clean Air Compact -…

EPA issues major reg rollback with minimal industry savings

By Sean Reilly   10/01/20  
In a potentially far-reaching rollback, EPA has completed formal repeal of a Clinton-era air toxics policy, but with the expected initial savings for industry a small fraction of what was once predicted.
Vox

Air pollution is much worse than we thought

By David Roberts   08/12/20  
Ditching fossil fuels would pay for itself through clean air alone. In the late 1960s, the US saw regular, choking smog descend over New York City and Los Angeles, 100,000 barrels of oil spilled off the…

EPA rejects tougher air-quality standards, says 2015 limits are sufficient

By Brady Dennis  Photo by J. David Ake   07/14/20  
The Trump administration said Monday that it will maintain national air-quality standards put in place in 2015, despite calls for more stringent regulations that advocates say are necessary to protect Americans in communities that are…

Pandemic’s Cleaner Air Could Reshape What We Know About the Atmosphere

By Coral Davenport  Photo: Rosem Morton/The New York Times   06/25/20  
In the crystalline air of the pandemic economy, climate change researchers have been flying a small plane over Route I-95, from Boston to Washington, measuring carbon dioxide levels. Scientists have mounted air quality monitors on…

Minority areas already have high pollution. Trump’s coronavirus response makes it worse, critics say.

By Dino Grandoni  Photo: Nick Hagen for The Washington Post   06/11/20  
President Trump’s efforts to prop up the economy during the coronavirus pandemic may end up doing more harm than good for poor and minority neighborhoods facing chronic pollution, administration critics say.

Air pollution from fracking killed an estimated 20 people in Pennsylvania from 2010-2017: Study

By Kristina Marusic  Photo: Kristina Marusic/EHN   06/05/20  
Particulate matter pollution emitted by Pennsylvania's fracking wells killed about 20 people between 2010 and 2017, according to a soon-to-be-published study.Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of...

‘Like Trash in a Landfill’: Carbon Dioxide Keeps Piling Up in the Atmosphere

By Henry Fountain  Photo: Chris Stewart/Associated Press   06/04/20  
Levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide reached another record in May, the month when they normally peak.

What We Can Do to Preserve Our Cleaner Air

By John Loike and Robert Pollack  Illustration: Amy Pollack   05/12/20  
How you can fight air pollution in your neighborhood and your home. ...

Clearing the Air About Clear Skies and Climate

By John Englander  Photo by V. Zolotov   05/11/20  
Visible air pollution in the form of black smoke, smog, and visibly “dirty-air” is largely carbon particles. Carbon is of course a chemical element, normally black, as in the pure powder form, and essentially in…
EDF

The Trump administration’s air toxics loophole would intensify environmental injustice

By Taylor Bacon   05/11/20  
One of the most disturbing aspects of the new coronavirus crisis is that people already struggling with underlying respiratory conditions seem to be at greater risk. This means that vulnerable communities already bearing the brunt…

For communities of color, air pollution may heighten coronavirus threat

By Jeremy Cox  Photo: submitted   05/05/20  
COVID-19 marks another disparity for communities of color, highlighting the urgency to address longstanding economic and health barriers there....

EPA rolls back basis for power plant toxic emissions rule

By Sean Reilly  Photo by Tony Webster   04/16/20  
EPA, in a bitterly contested move, today released a final rule that scraps the legal basis for its seminal 2012 regulations on power plant emissions of mercury. The rule revokes the statutorily required finding that…

‘Unbelievable’ Timing: As Coronavirus Rages, Trump Disregards Advice to Tighten Clean Air Rules

By Coral Davenport   04/14/20  
Despite an emerging link between air pollution and Covid-19 death rates, the Trump administration will decline to tighten standards on soot emissions.

NASA Satellite Data Show 30% Air Pollution Drop over the Northeastern US

04/13/20  
Over the past several weeks, NASA satellite measurements have revealed significant reductions in air pollution over the major metropolitan areas of the Northeast United States. Similar reductions have been observed in other regions of the…

Trump’s car rule would cause more pollution deaths

By Maxine Joselow   04/02/20  
On Page 1,525, the rule rolling back emissions standards for cars offers a striking assessment: It could cause 444 to 1,000 premature deaths from air pollution.

Traffic and Pollution Plummet as U.S. Cities Shut Down for Coronavirus

By Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich   03/22/20  
A satellite that detects pollution linked to cars and trucks shows declines over major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York.

Does air pollution make you more susceptible to coronavirus? California won’t like the answer

By Tony Barboza  Photo: Christina House/Christina House/Los Angeles Times   03/21/20  
Does Southern California air pollution increase the risk of getting coronavirus? Probably, experts say....
EDF

EPA data emphasizes danger of Trump Administration’s “air toxics loophole”

By Taylor Bacon  Graphic: EDF   02/19/20  
Over the last few decades, EPA has issued numerous Clean Air Act protections to curb dangerous air pollution from large industrial sources. Now, however, a proposed Trump Administration loophole threatens to undermine that effort –…