Clearing the Air on Cleaning the Air

April 29, 2017

Have you heard the good news about the excellent state of U.S. air quality? Chances are, you haven’t. In fact, chances are more likely that you’ve heard something of the opposite—glum stories of smoggy skies and unhealthy air constantly under threat from industrial pollution and SUVs.

Reality begs to differ. A new report from a group of state regulatory agencies: The Greatest Story Seldom Told: Profiles and Success Stories in Air Pollution Control, chronicles the dramatic improvements to U.S. air quality over recent decades and contrasts that with Americans’ pessimistic views on the same subject.

For example, it highlights trends in Gallup’s annual polling on environmental issues, which in 1997 found that 42 percent of Americans worried “a great deal” about air pollution while another 34 percent worried “a fair amount.” Incredibly, 20 years later, Gallup’s recently released 2017 survey finds Americans more concerned about air pollution, with 47 percent worried “a great deal” and 31 percent worried “a fair amount.”

As the chart below shows, during this period of continual public angst on the subject of air quality, pollutant emissions fell significantly even as population, energy use, and the economy steadily grew.

So what explains this disconnect? As the report notes, “With media more likely to report bad news combined with often apocalyptic framing by advocates and limited understanding of technical air quality information, it is no wonder that the public is often confused about air quality in their city, county, state, and nation.” That’s a gentle way of saying that Americans have been misled by the media and agenda-driven environmental groups.

This has led to a remarkable situation in which Americans are more concerned about the air they breathe than people in countries with off-the-charts air pollution. For example, the report notes that “The U.S. ranks behind countries like Bangladesh and Nepal in air quality satisfaction despite average fine particulate matter levels roughly 90 percent lower than these countries.”

Read entire article at the Institute for 21st Century Energy.


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