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The Big Answer


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Air Pollution

an article by our site

carbon dioxide emissions
(Sources: Current–U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2009. Projected–EIA, Annual Energy Outlook 2009. World Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Population by Region, Reference Case. DOE/EIA)

The primary current pollution trend in the world situation is the shift from developed countries to developing countries as major polluters. While wealthy nations have begun to curb some of their prodigious output of pollutants, poorer nations are only now industrializing. They have just enough money and technology (which is, of course, usually borrowed) to make a mess, without the additional resources (money, expertise, technology) to clean it up. However, according to the World Bank in 2007, 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China. But some of the world's worst polluted places are in Azerbaijan, India, Peru, Russia, Ukraine and Zambia.

16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China
16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China


Chinese people often wear masks in public to help with breathing
Chinese people often wear masks in public to help with breathing


Air pollution makes bird wear gas mask
Air pollution makes bird wear gas mask

The choice, for such nations, is one of either protecting natural resources or feeding a population that has exceeded the carrying capacity of the land. For some, as with Brazil, modernization and repayment of foreign debt seem to be impossible without wholesale destruction of ecosystems, viz. the rain forest. This wholesale destruction of ecosystems is, of course, about the dumbest way possible for us to be treating our planet short of nuclear war.

Destruction of ecosystems is, of course, about the dumbest way possible for us to be treating our planet
Destruction of ecosystems is, of course, about the dumbest way possible for us to be treating our planet


Overpopulation causes many of Earth's other problems—it's a major contributor to war and environmental destruction
Overpopulation causes many of Earth's other problems—it's a major contributor to war and environmental destruction

The pollution problem, therefore, is another manifestation of the overpopulation crisis: even if agricultural and industrial production gets cleaner, this improvement is canceled by more and more production. The following sections show a few indicative global trends, along with some U.S. statistics which represent the situation in most developed countries.

Air pollution cooks some geese
Air pollution cooks some geese

" . . . at least one ton [of hazardous waste] is produced in the U.S. for every American citizen each year. Two thirds of this is disposed of in or on the land through injection wells, pits, ponds, or landfills, at the risk of contaminating groundwater reserves." However, most Americans favor tighter environmental standards for industry; they do not want to postpone tighter emission standards on cars and trucks, and favor rules that require air bags in all cars.

Most Americans favor tighter environmental standards for industry; they do not want to postpone tighter emission standards on cars and trucks, and favor the 1998 rules that require air bags in all cars
Most Americans favor tighter environmental standards for industry; they do not want to postpone tighter emission standards on cars and trucks, and favor the 1998 rules that require air bags in all cars

The Roper Organization discovered through research in 1981 and 1991 that Americans do not want economic interests to be a priority over environmental and safety concerns. (Source: Schwartz, Joe, "Americans Favor a Tight Leash on Business," American Demographics, August 1991, p. 20.)

Polluted planet
Polluted planet

The EPA’s proposed Tier 3 Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards Program is a comprehensive approach, considering the vehicle and its fuel as an integrated system, aimed at addressing the impacts of motor vehicles on air quality and public health. The program proposes to set new vehicle emissions standards and lower the sulfur content of gasoline beginning in 2017. The proposed vehicle standards would reduce both tailpipe and evaporative emissions from passenger cars, light-duty trucks, medium-duty passenger vehicles, and some heavy-duty vehicles. The proposed gasoline sulfur standard would enable more stringent vehicle emissions standards and would make emissions control systems more effective. (Source: Tier 3 Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards Program)

From 2007 to 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 13 percent and fuel economy values have increased by 16 percent.