Air pollution studies make the Kansas City Metroplex neither the dirtiest nor the cleanest metropolitan area in America. The worst area for ozone and particulate pollution settles into the vegetable growing region of California’s Central Valley. It runs from Sacramento south to the Mexican border and includes both Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Depletion of the ozone layer and high particulate levels in the atmosphere are linked to heart and lung disease and skin cancers.
The Chinese currently have the worst air in the world. The command style government there has announced they will cause air pollution to decline by 25 percent in three years and scrap all vehicles produced before 2005 unless those vehicles can pass strict air quality testing. Some Chinese entrepreneurs are making a business out of providing “pollution clearing masks” and collecting bags of clean air in the mountains for sale at kiosks in the cities.
The lung association report on Kansas City says that particulates are low and earn an “A” grade. Days with higher particulates ratings declined by one day since the previous ALA report. Only 14 days a year cause concern even to the Orange level of particulate pollution. No days venture into the red or purple zones that indicate higher levels of particulate.
Ozone, the other major pollution measure, does not rank the KC area as well. The ALA assigns an “F” grade to the KC Metroplex. This should not be a surprise as Ozone depletion occurs higher in the atmosphere, travels with the weather patterns, and is more independent of local conditions.
All this reporting cycles the discussion back to the climate change by human influence debate. Most scientists accept that human activity has caused alterations to the climate. A vocal minority disagrees. The late author of Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton, himself a physician, disagreed with mainstream science. At a National Press Club presentation shortly before his death where I was present, Crichton held that climate variations over time are cyclical rather than caused by human activity.
Whichever explanation is true may not matter. The climate is changing over the short term. It is unlikely that 200 odd independent world governments will agree on anything; much less than a unified, complex plan to cut down on hydrocarbon and CFC emissions. The 1994 Montreal accords haven’t translated to predicted improvements.
Whether cyclical or man-made, effects that mimic climate change are underway. Should we be striving to stop the change? Or should we be concentrating efforts on mitigating the effects on people? The former path is like pushing a boulder up hill. The latter road creates jobs, expands the economy, ensures we continue to enjoy the fruits of our technology, and satisfies a new worldwide market for what has been invented.