The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards for plants, cars, and factories that emit greenhouse gas pollution. Because global warming is by definition a global problem, there is support for scrapping individual source standards for a national cap-and-trade system that limits the collective pollution, instead of local emissions. However, new scientific research by Mark Z. Jacobson, finds that carbon dioxide pollution is a two-fold killer — causing not just global warming but also forming “domes” that trap other pollutants in urban areas:
Jacobson found that domes of increased carbon dioxide concentrations – discovered to form above cities more than a decade ago – cause local temperature increases that in turn increase the amounts of local air pollutants, raising concentrations of health-damaging ground-level ozone as well as particles in urban air.
Jacobson’s study, “Enhancement of Local Air Pollution by Urban CO2 Domes,” published in Environmental Science & Technology, estimates that “reducing local CO2 may reduce 300-1000 premature air pollution mortalities/yr in the U.S. and 50-100/yr in California, even if CO2 in adjacent regions is not controlled.” The deaths represent a small fraction of the population who are suffering increased respiratory problems from carbon domes.
Right-wing polluters have launched a multi-pronged assault on Clean Air Act regulation of global warming pollution, including petitions by state legislatures, lawsuits from governors and industry trade groups, resolutions in Congress, and propaganda campaigns by Astroturf groups. Despite the growing damage of climate change, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson has weakened and delayed implementation of global warming rules to be phased in from 2011 to 2016, decades after the United States ratified the Rio Treaty in 1992.
Left unclear in the rumors about the proposed Kerry-Graham-Lieberman climate legislation is whether it will preempt existing Clean Air Act rules. Considering that over forty senators, including three Democrats — Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) — support Sen. Lisa Murkowski‘s (R-AK) Dirty Air Act resolution to nullify the EPA’s scientific endangerment finding entirely, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) wants to suspend Clean Air Act enforcement until 2012, it appears that minds will have to be changed if the Clean Air Act is to be protected in climate legislation. With luck, senators will pay more attention to the health and welfare of their constituents than to the size of their corporate campaign contributions.