Clean Air, and Getting Cleaner

Recently the Environmental Protection Agency tightened the standard for ground-level ozone by 11 percent. Ozone is formed by the mixing of certain pollutants such as car exhaust in the presence of sunlight and can irritate lungs and damage crops.

Predictably, local environmentalists immediately complained that the reduction didn’t go far enough, pointing to the rise in asthma rates as evidence of a problem. But ambient concentrations of ozone in Oregon have been declining for decades, and are well below standards. In the Portland-Vancouver area, for example, ozone emissions have dropped roughly 20% since 1990, even though population has gone up by 47% and driving has increased by 54%.

And this is not an isolated trend. Emissions of virtually all air pollutants, including oxides of nitrogen, particulates, and lead, have all gone down since 1988.

No one seems to know exactly why asthma rates are increasing, but if air pollution has been dropping for decades, it’s unlikely that tighter standards for ozone would have much effect.

Environmentalists tend to whine about everything. But on the annual celebration of Earth Day, let’s take a moment to enjoy one of the great accomplishments of the late 20th century — the permanent clean-up of urban smog in most American cities.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market think tank.

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Posted by at 05:35 | Posted in Measure 37 | 11 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • MichaelO

    Predictably, the environmentalists pointed out that the scientific panel set up to advise the EPA on this issue unanimously called for a tighter standard. “No one knows” indeed.

    Dang those environmentalists, citing science!

  • Anonymous

    If you want to have a good time go to a meeting of environmentalists. Ba-a-a, Ba-a-a

  • dean

    Wasn’t it “environmentalists” who initially lobbied for the REGULATIONS, fought intensively by private industry and conservatives, that eventually resulted in the clean air act, pollutions controls on cars, smokestacks and so forth, that actually resulted in our air getting cleaner in spite of population and economic growth? Weren’t we all told that controlling air pollution would destroy our economy? Are we seeing the same process being repeated to day with respect to CO2 emissions and global warming?

    Have you hugged or at least thanked an environmentalist today? Maybe you should.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    You know if you take a look at this study some things really stand out.

    1) The Clean Air Act specifically forbids the EPA from considering costs in setting air standards.

    Who the hell wrote that little ditty into the act? Oh that’s real brilliant. You know what, lets not consider cost in anything, I mean if it saves one life its worth it right? Lets immediately lower the speed limit on all roads to 15mph, deaths will plummet.

    2) Based on the largest study, if we go with these new ozone limits, 260 to 2000 lives will get saved annually in 2020. When added to the other great benefits this results in $3 – $17 billion a year. If we spread across all the studies its like 420 to 2000 lives.

    Hmm, that sounds pretty good. I mean 260 – 2000 lives, that’s ok, all that money, that’s ok. Gotta say, a spread of 3 – 17 doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the numbers though, I mean that’s like a factor of six between the two.

    3) If the EPA excludes the benefits of premature death, in case there is no causal relationship between ozone and premature death, they knock the savings down only by a billion.

    Well, I guess that makes some sense, death doesn’t cost that much compared to treating illness. You know though, with number spreads like $3 – $17 billion and apparently not seeming to know if there is a causal relationship between ozone and premature death, kind of makes me wonder what the hell they do know.

    4) EPA estimates the cost of implementation at $7.6 – $8.8 billion.

    OK I guess they estimated the cost to comply with the presidential executive order mentioned in the write up. Hey, wait a second, how come when it gets to the cost, something government has been notoriously bad at forecasting, they can figure it out to a decimal place and with a way smaller spread? You really expect me to believe this malarkey?

    Look, government agencies exist to promulgate new rules, effectively laws. What agency is going to sit around and say everything is fine, no new rules needed? That’s all this is about.

    OOoooohhhhh, I feel so much safer, the ozone is down 0.005ppm thanks to the EPA – “Look Mabel, isn’t it great? Jonny can play with his ball and not keel over. Thanks EPA! 0.005 ppm makes all the difference. Wish I had a job now, except the new air scrubbers at the paintin plant were so expensive they moved it to Mexico. Oh well, more time to play with Jonny I guess……..put on some Skynyrd woman!…its the first of the month, the AFDC check just came in and I gotta whole case of Miller cooling down in the fridge right now!”

  • Bob Clark

    I wish I could’ve honored earth day by driving down to Salem, and picketing the governor against his climate change agenda. It’s a bunch of croc designed to increase government power and taxes. Maybe next year. Hopefully its colder than normal like it was today.

  • Anonymous

    What we are seing with respect to CO2 emissions and global warming is demonstrated quite clearly by this IPCC scientist.

    January 17, 2005
    Chris Landsea Leaves IPCC

    This is an open letter to the community from Chris Landsea.

    Dear colleagues,

    After some prolonged deliberation, I have decided to withdraw from participating in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns.

    With this open letter to the community, I wish to explain the basis for my decision and bring awareness to what I view as a problem in the IPCC process. The IPCC is a group of climate researchers from around the world that every few years summarize how climate is changing and how it may be altered in the future due to manmade global warming. I had served both as an author for the Observations chapter and a Reviewer for the 2nd Assessment Report in 1995 and the 3rd Assessment Report in 2001, primarily on the topic of tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons). My work on hurricanes, and tropical cyclones more generally, has been widely cited by the IPCC. For the upcoming AR4, I was asked several weeks ago by the Observations chapter Lead Author – Dr. Kevin Trenberth – to provide the writeup for Atlantic hurricanes. As I had in the past, I agreed to assist the IPCC in what I thought was to be an important, and politically-neutral determination of what is happening with our climate.

    Shortly after Dr. Trenberth requested that I draft the Atlantic hurricane section for the AR4’s Observations chapter, Dr. Trenberth participated in a press conference organized by scientists at Harvard on the topic “Experts to warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity” along with other media interviews on the topic. The result of this media interaction was widespread coverage that directly connected the very busy 2004 Atlantic hurricane season as being caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming occurring today. Listening to and reading transcripts of this press conference and media interviews, it is apparent that Dr. Trenberth was being accurately quoted and summarized in such statements and was not being misrepresented in the media. These media sessions have potential to result in a widespread perception that global warming has made recent hurricane activity much more severe.

    I found it a bit perplexing that the participants in the Harvard press conference had come to the conclusion that global warming was impacting hurricane activity today. To my knowledge, none of the participants in that press conference had performed any research on hurricane variability, nor were they reporting on any new work in the field. All previous and current research in the area of hurricane variability has shown no reliable, long-term trend up in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, either in the Atlantic or any other basin. The IPCC assessments in 1995 and 2001 also concluded that there was no global warming signal found in the hurricane record.

    Moreover, the evidence is quite strong and supported by the most recent credible studies that any impact in the future from global warming upon hurricane will likely be quite small. The latest results from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (Knutson and Tuleya, Journal of Climate, 2004) suggest that by around 2080, hurricanes may have winds and rainfall about 5% more intense than today. It has been proposed that even this tiny change may be an exaggeration as to what may happen by the end of the 21st Century (Michaels, Knappenberger, and Landsea, Journal of Climate, 2005, submitted).

    It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming. Given Dr. Trenberth’s role as the IPCC’s Lead Author responsible for preparing the text on hurricanes, his public statements so far outside of current scientific understanding led me to concern that it would be very difficult for the IPCC process to proceed objectively with regards to the assessment on hurricane activity. My view is that when people identify themselves as being associated with the IPCC and then make pronouncements far outside current scientific understandings that this will harm the credibility of climate change science and will in the longer term diminish our role in public policy.

    My concerns go beyond the actions of Dr. Trenberth and his colleagues to how he and other IPCC officials responded to my concerns. I did caution Dr. Trenberth before the media event and provided him a summary of the current understanding within the hurricane research community. I was disappointed when the IPCC leadership dismissed my concerns when I brought up the misrepresentation of climate science while invoking the authority of the IPCC. Specifically, the IPCC leadership said that Dr. Trenberth was speaking as an individual even though he was introduced in the press conference as an IPCC lead author; I was told that that the media was exaggerating or misrepresenting his words, even though the audio from the press conference and interview tells a different story (available on the web directly); and that Dr. Trenberth was accurately reflecting conclusions from the TAR, even though it is quite clear that the TAR stated that there was no connection between global warming and hurricane activity. The IPCC leadership saw nothing to be concerned with in Dr. Trenberth’s unfounded pronouncements to the media, despite his supposedly impartial important role that he must undertake as a Lead Author on the upcoming AR4.

    It is certainly true that “individual scientists can do what they wish in their own rights”, as one of the folks in the IPCC leadership suggested. Differing conclusions and robust debates are certainly crucial to progress in climate science. However, this case is not an honest scientific discussion conducted at a meeting of climate researchers. Instead, a scientist with an important role in the IPCC represented himself as a Lead Author for the IPCC has used that position to promulgate to the media and general public his own opinion that the busy 2004 hurricane season was caused by global warming, which is in direct opposition to research written in the field and is counter to conclusions in the TAR. This becomes problematic when I am then asked to provide the draft about observed hurricane activity variations for the AR4 with, ironically, Dr. Trenberth as the Lead Author for this chapter. Because of Dr. Trenberth’s pronouncements, the IPCC process on our assessment of these crucial extreme events in our climate system has been subverted and compromised, its neutrality lost. While no one can “tell” scientists what to say or not say (nor am I suggesting that), the IPCC did select Dr. Trenberth as a Lead Author and entrusted to him to carry out this duty in a non-biased, neutral point of view. When scientists hold press conferences and speak with the media, much care is needed not to reflect poorly upon the IPCC. It is of more than passing interest to note that Dr. Trenberth, while eager to share his views on global warming and hurricanes with the media, declined to do so at the Climate Variability and Change Conference in January where he made several presentations. Perhaps he was concerned that such speculation – though worthy in his mind of public pronouncements – would not stand up to the scrutiny of fellow climate scientists.

    I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound. As the IPCC leadership has seen no wrong in Dr. Trenberth’s actions and have retained him as a Lead Author for the AR4, I have decided to no longer participate in the IPCC AR4.

    Sincerely, Chris Landsea

    Attached are the correspondence between myself and key members of the IPCC FAR, Download file.

    • dean

      Okay. What conclusions do your draw from this letter? It does not suggest global warming is not happening. It does not suggest it is not caused by CO2 emissions. It does not suggest seal levels are not rising, or that there are many other potentially negative impacts. It does not suggest people should not take action to slow down CO2 emissions and thus minimize warming.

      It does suggest the concern that hurricanes may become significantly stronger due to warming may have been over estimated or over emphasized. That is good news no?

      So…buy that Hummer after all? What is your point?

  • Anonymous


    Nice read. What a spin. The letter isn’t a “suggestion”. It’s clear cut testimony by an IPCC scientist stating how the “IPCC process on our assessment of these crucial extreme events in our climate system has been subverted and compromised”

    The hurricane lies were not “over estimating or over emphasizing”.

    “The IPCC assessments in 1995 and 2001 concluded that there was no global warming signal found in the hurricane record.”

    That’s the IPCC reports showing “NO global warming signal”.

    Now how does one “over estimate or over emphasize” a “concern” that doesn’t exist?

    You made up the concern straw man so you could lie too.

    IPCC’s Dr. Trenberth participated in a press conference organized by scientists at Harvard on the topic “Experts to warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity”.

    The result was widespread coverage that directly connected the very busy 2004 Atlantic hurricane season as being caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming occurring today.

    IPCC’s Dr. Trenberth was accurately quoted misrepresenting the very “consensus” you use for a bible.

    It’s amazing that you were able to read no point of interest in that letter.

    This letter shows clearly how the IPCC process is motivated by pre-conceived agendas and is scientifically unsound.

    You could not be more intellectually dishonest.

    There are many other fabricated effects of Global Warming to go along with this one. It’s never ending.

    That’s why this is the biggest hoax in history.

  • Anonymous
    • dean

      Your post said “What we are seeing with respect to CO2 emissions and global warming is demonstrated quite clearly by this IPCC scientist.”

      Only there is nothing in what Landsea said in his resignation letter (in 2005, by the way) or since then that suggests global warming is not happening or that it is not caused by humans. Whether Trenberth over stepped the data or not may be relevant to hurricanes, but it is not relevant to global warming. One resignation letter over one issue does not mean the entire IPCC edifice is wrong, phony, a hoax, and so forth.

      It says nothing about the “IPCC process.” Read what Landsea said:

      “I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized”

      The part being the relationship of hurricane strength to global warming. He says nothing about the rest of the IPCC work or conclusions.And by the way, analysis by other IPCC scientists does show a correlation between warming oceans and hurricanes. But there seems to be general agreement (consensus) that there is not enough evidence to draw any firm conclusions as of yet.

      So…it seems to be working the way it is supposed to work.

  • Bo

    Hey John,
    Your “great accomplishment” you say we should celebrate is going to put a lot of environmentalists out of work. That would be bad for the environment.

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