Thought Piece by Stephen Heins
[Arguably, air pollution is still a more deadly killer than greenhouse gases, if a little less mysterious and environmentally sexy. Steve]
Global Pollution Map Is Astonishing: 5 Takeaways
I am president of the Spark of Freedom Foundation.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Unhealthy and even hazardous air pollution blankets a large portion of the world today, a real-time air pollution map provided by Berkeley Earth shows. The map reports objective numerical values for air pollution concentration and then color-codes the global map for ease of reference.
The map assigns qualitative categories to the numerical values, with air pollution concentrations rated “good,” “moderate,” “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” “unhealthy,” “very unhealthy,” and “hazardous.” Below is a real-time image taken at noon Eastern Standard Time December 1, when Western Hemisphere industrial activity is peaking but Asian activity is at a lull.
Here are five important takeaways from the map, which is available here:
- Asian air quality is extremely poor. Most of measured Asian air quality is astonishingly poor. The majority of measured air quality ranges from “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to “hazardous.” Air quality in China and India is particularly poor.
- European air quality isn’t too great, either. For all the hype about “green” energy programs in Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other European nations, “good” air quality is rare outside of Scandinavia. Central Europe fares worst, with the UK, France, and Germany not far behind.
- Americans are blessed with clean air. The vast majority of the United States experiences “good” air quality. Even in the isolated areas that without “good” air quality, air quality is merely “moderate.”
- America is an exceptional nation. American air quality is especially impressive in the context of global air quality. Approximately half the measured “good” air quality in the world exists in the United States. Approximately two-thirds the measured “good” air quality in the world exists in the United States and Canada. Among the reasons for this are our increasing use of natural gas, lower population density than nations like China and India, and the employment of cutting-edge environmental technologies.
- Foreign air quality presents American opportunity. American air quality has benefited greatly from the fracking revolution. With the recent discovery of vast natural gas discoveries and technological advances to recover natural gas from shale rock formations, American natural gas is now as abundant and affordable as coal. In 2008, coal was the most prevalent source of American electricity, powering nearly twice as much as its closest competitor, natural gas. Now, however, natural gas is the leading source of American electricity, with measurable environmental and economicbenefits. Other nations don’t have the natural gas resources and production technologies we do, yet they are clamoring for cleaner air. Federal and state policies that encourage the production and export of American natural gas will enable high-pollution nations to benefit from cleaner air and enable Americans to benefit from foreign dollars being sent to the United States. America is well-positioned to be the OPEC of clean-burning, in-demand natural gas.