Friday, June 03, 2011

Ozone alerts, Climate Change, and Rochester, NY

Just the other day (Tuesday, May 31, 2011) when temperatures reached over 90 degrees, we had an ozone alert here in Rochester, NY. That isn’t really news in the sense that there’s something odd and strikingly abnormal about high ozone days in Rochester, like say the recent tornado in Massachusetts.

But it is news in the sense that we are experiencing more ground-level ozone alerts because there are more hot days in our area. This is a prediction of Climate Change and because Rochester, like all cities, is a heat island because of the amount of brick, pavement, and mortar that heats up more than the surrounding areas we need to be concerned.  Also, consider that Monroe County keeps getting an ‘F’ for high days of ozone pollution: check American Lung Association’s “The State of the Air 2010

Ground-level ozone (as opposed to atmospheric ozone, which we need to filter ultraviolet light from the sun and keep skin cancer in check) is not good for you. Ground-level ozone “which exacerbates lung diseases such as asthma and can cause breathing difficulties even in healthy individuals” (see report below) must be seen as a condition that is human-caused.  

This isn’t extreme weather that our hearty forefathers and mothers adapted to reminding us of their courage and determination to survive. We are tough species. The increase in ground-level ozone is a Climate Change phenomenon that we humans exacerbate because of our use of greenhouse gases.  And what’s particularly pernicious is that the hotter things get the more we will use our air conditioners, which will leads to a positive feedback loop because using more electricity powered by greenhouse gases creates more oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—more ozone pollution.  (Of course, if you used air conditioners that we powered by renewable energy, things wouldn’t get so bad.)

It is our natural inclination to tough out incidents of tough weather and prove how hearty we are, but this is not the proper response of an intelligent species reacting to new phenomenon that they have caused. Yes, our ancestors could survive what Nature dished out—storms, freezing weather, droughts, and hurricanes—where even in the worst of times they picked up the pieces of their lives and went on.

Nowadays, there’s an unnatural heat.  We are causing this new climate pattern in the way we heat up our ovens.  Humans, nor any forms of life around us, are not especially well adapted to being cooked.  We, not just Nature, are driving the world-wide temperatures of this planet up beyond what any of our ancestors experienced. We are in new territory. And, the proper response would be to stop putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—not push ourselves harder and harder so we can go faster and faster over the cliff.

Check this out:

Report: Climate Change Could Worsen Ozone Pollution, Threatening Our Health and Economy | Union of Concerned Scientists "Report demonstrates how climate change could increase "bad" ozone, threatening health and economy " Millions of Americans suffer from the harmful effects of ground-level ozone pollution, which exacerbates lung diseases such as asthma and can cause breathing difficulties even in healthy individuals. Our new report, Climate Change and Your Health: Rising Temperatures, Worsening Ozone Pollution, finds that unchecked global warming could increase ground-level ozone, threatening public health and the economy. All told, health-related impacts could cost approximately $5.4 billion in 2020. And if global warming pollution continues unabated, these impacts and costs could be significantly higher. Read the report: "Climate Change and Your Health Rising Temperatures, Worsening Ozone Pollution” --from Climate Change | Union of Concerned Scientists

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