Even as the Republican majority in the House is shutting down the science associated with air pollution, and has passed an astounding 168 bills hampering the EPA’s ability to collect data on (or act to prevent) the harm of pollutants, the EPA is making improvements in its ability to study the interaction of weather and harmful air pollution.
The EPA today announced a more up to the minute refinement of the decades-old method used in gathering its data: the Community Multi-scale Air Quality model (CMAQ) that the National Weather Service uses as the model to produce daily forecasts for ozone air quality and other harmful health effects of the use of dirty energy.
The new modeling improves forecasting ability, in predicting for example the daily danger level of smog over natural geological “basins” like Los Angeles.
Republican bills to shut down EPA
New data or old, however, it might be a moot point. The Republican majority in congress last month passed a bill to prevent EPA from even collecting data on the health effects of air pollution (in order to assess the costs of not cleaning up) with the TRAIN Act, passed by party line vote.
Another bill passed by Republicans this year would knock satellites out of the business of providing much of the raw meteorological data needed in compiling this kind of information (as well as predicting hurricanes, droughts and tornadoes). (US Breaks Heat Records as Republicans End Record-Keeping) That data is now providing the evidence of anthropogenic climate change, something that Republicans oppose on ideological grounds and wish to sweep under the rug.
Why Republicans want to shut down EPA
By silencing the canary, Republicans believe that the US will enter a golden age of unfettered dirty energy job-creation along the lines of a similarly unfettered Somalia or Nigeria. However, solar energy grew at 6.8% last year, employs more people than coal extraction, and posted a larger trade surplus than the oil business.
If the EPA survives this assault by the Republican Party – and that is up to voters in a land so awash in falsified news that they do not have the information necessary for democracy – the new version would use up-to-the minute meteorology and air chemistry data to determine how weather conditions affect pollution, and how pollution can affect and change weather. It would make it possible for scientists to analyze air quality at smaller, finer-resolution settings for individual towns and cities, and model air quality for the entire northern hemisphere.
What CMAQ models currently
Currently, scientists use CMAQ to estimate air quality levels at the regional and national scales. CMAQ uses meteorology and emissions data to evaluate air pollution trends and distribution. The system models multiple air pollutants, which include ozone, particulate matter, and air toxics to help air quality regulators determine the best air quality management scenarios for their communities, regions, and states.
Why we pay EPA to study it
Air quality has a direct impact on people’s health. EPA research has shown that air contaminated with common pollutants like ozone, acidic gases, and toxic components of particulate matter can aggravate asthma symptoms and put stress on cardiovascular systems.
What the improved CMAQ model could do
The improved version allows scientists to study air pollution at the local level and much larger scales. It has the capability to use data from other air quality models. This gives the system more flexibility to address new and increasingly complex air pollution issues, and incorporate input from a worldwide community of CMAQ users.
“The ability to apply the CMAQ model to larger scales will allow scientists to better understand the ways that air pollution moves around the globe, and provide much-needed information for decision makers in protecting public health,” said Dr. Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The model represents collaborative work among scientists in the fields of engineering, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, atmospheric science, and meteorology.”
Why the EPA is endangered
The House has a Republican majority and the Senate has had a real or de facto one for six years, except for 4 or 5 very productive months of over 60 Democrats, after Al Franken was finally allowed to be seated in 2009, and ending with Teddy Kennedy’s death several months later.
By using a shady and undemocratic maneuver, any time there are just 40 Republicans in the Senate, since 2006, Republicans have been able to systematically prevent votes being taken on any Democratic bill, using the cloture vote (a vote to hold a vote) which requires 60 Senators to agree to vote, effectively shutting down the Democratic majority from being able to vote up or down.
The resulting gridlock effectively demoralizes Democratic voters, because they assume that Senate Democrats are ineffective despite supposedly holding a “majority” of over 50.
This demoralization is fostered by the corporate media which acts as if the need for 60 votes is normal, and nevertheless, that Democrats who “hold the majority” (usually over 50) are incompetent in not being able to get bills passed, which discourages Democratic voters, depressing the Democratic vote, making it easier for Republicans to keep their actual (though illegal) “majority” of 40.