Residents in nearby Morehead City suffered through more than two weeks of dangerously dirty air in 2018, according to a snew report

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who drive to work, you’ve undoubtedly sat behind the wheel frustrated as you inch along behind other commuters. While this traffic may make you late for your morning meeting, the consequences are much larger than just getting your day started off on the wrong foot. The fumes from all those cars are polluting our air, threatening our health and fueling global warming.

In January, the federal government gave us a disturbing reason to believe this won’t change. Federal officials announced they are blocking states like North Carolina from setting our own strong limits on tailpipe pollution. This is part of a clean car standards rollback, which has been our best national climate program for lowering car pollution. What’s worse is while our health is in danger, our own U.S. Senator Thom Tillis refuses to stand up for clean car standards in North Carolina and across the country.

This should be frustrating for all North Carolinians – and particularly those in Morehead City – because it comes at a time when there’s already trouble in the air. A new report from Environment North Carolina and NCPIRG recently found that despite decades of progress under the Clean Air Act, coastal towns like Morehead City, experienced 19 days of poor air quality due to air pollution in 2018. Cumulatively, that’s more than two weeks of breathing dirty air that can cause adverse health effects. Other cities in the state dealt with even more air pollution. Further inland, Winston-Salem experienced more than 100 days of elevated air pollution.

But whether it’s 19 days or more than 100 days, air pollution causes serious danger. The reason: Research increasingly suggests there is no safe level of air pollution for us to breathe. That means by simply breathing in and out, millions are at risk of heart disease, respiratory distress, worsened mental health, cancer and more just from the air that surrounds us. Tens of thousands of people have their lives cut short because of air pollution.

“Particulate matter and ozone have been shown to worsen numerous health issues including heart disease, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases. These are three of the top five leading causes of death in North Carolina,” explained Rachel McIntosh-Kastrinsky the Medical Advocates for Healthy Air Manager.

The scariest part of all this is that if we don’t act now, this problem will only be worse. It’s nothing new to say that North Carolina is known for its sultry summers. But, with climate change, it’s only going to get hotter. Otherwise healthy individuals may already end up with life-threatening asthma attacks with our current heat and humidity. But increased temperatures results in increased ozone or smog. This should concern every North Carolinian because research increasingly suggests there is no safe level of air pollution for us to breathe.

We can’t choose whether or not to breathe, but we can choose to fight for clean air. This starts with our transportation system. In North Carolina, transportation accounts for 70 percent of our air pollution, and fossil fuels burned in our cars, trucks and buses are now the largest source of global warming pollution in the U.S.

We can reduce pollution from vehicles by paving the way for electric cars, buses and trucks. We must also promote walking and biking. Our transportation system is stuck at a red light, billowing pollution into our atmosphere. But our elected leaders can clean up our air and protect our health by giving electric vehicles the green light.

Fortunately, at the state level, Gov. Roy Cooper is looking out for the health of North Carolinians. Executive Order 80, as laid out by the governor, would reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 and increase the number of zero-emission vehicles on the road to 80,000 by 2025. It also creates the interagency climate council to structure a plan to get us to these ambitious goals

The state legislature is also making bold steps in the right direction. There are bills in both the State House and Senate that would commit North Carolina to 100 pecent renewable energy by 2050. These are steps in the right direction to help clean up our air and protect North Carolinians from the harmful effects of air pollution.

Now we look to Sen. Tillis to push those in Washington to act similarly.

Jamie Lockwood is a climate and clean energy associate with Environment North Carolina.

(8) comments

movinonup

Molarky.

taxpayer

What complete and utter nonsense!

The federal government is correct to assert it's authority on this. No car manufacturer in existence could possibly design and construct vehicles to meet potentially 50 different standards for the US market.

The real agenda is to empower the nutjob "progressives" so they can dictate all sorts of wacky new rules that take money from everyone else to fund their utopia. This crowd wants mythical "zero-emissions" cars, but opposes hydro, and nuclear power outright, and opposes wind and solar if it is anywhere in their zip code. They are happy to see people like Cooper mandate that we buy expensive electricity from his family, the equipment for which was paid with taxpayer funds.

Give us a break.

David Collins

A bunch of lefties from Chapel Hill . Activists that pride themselves on playing frisbee , smoking dope and jumping rope while preaching yet one more end of world crisis . Some day , something of actual substance will appear in the wrapper . Until then .......

David Collins

Someone has to say this , so here goes .

I have noticed that the Editor who continually posts these articles , does not drive an electric car , has no solar panels or wind turbines on his home or office and does not ride a bicycle to work . All the time still publishing this rubbish . What’s up with that ? If you are going to talk the talk , at least do the walk . Be a shining example for we , the deplorable ones to look up to .

kenwood

It's those with limited vision who criticize those with Jamie's view. The same ones who mocked the vision of putting a man on the moon, E communication, solar power, any and all creations of those who look to the future and not cling to the past, to that which makes them feel comfortable. They do not want to be disturbed by the thought that life might be changing, even for them. In their discomfort they resort to name calling and mockery. I remember my grandfather in the 30s ,when he would state that we wouldn't be able to listen to our favorite radio program because it was too windy. The wind would blow the signal away. A doubter of course, but he didn't resort to name calling in his skepticism. We are all free to disagree. We are not free to slander those we disagree with.

David Collins

Show me slander , you are pretty much in disarray with your parties dysfunctional performance . Gotta do better than that . Good luck !

David Collins

Everyone has limited vision , not equally limited but still limited . Changes in technology are ongoing with a bright side and a dark side as well . Man on the moon , while a great achievement also resulted in a massive use of natural resources along with huge quantities of fossil fuel . The amount of toxic air pollution released and is still ongoing , is mind bending . Would think the tadpole kissers would be up in arms about this issue . Crickets. While solar power has it’s place it is not a panacea . Having vision is a wonderful thing but you better have your feet firmly planted on what historically works . Failing that you risk being left out in the cold and dark. If you are going to preach you better live as you preach . Failure to do so makes one a bit of a hypocrite .

By the way, grandfather was correct . The 30s meant AM radio for most of us . High winds bring on static electricity which can degrade AM radio signals . Good try !

JusticeForAll

Working within the constraints of resources, while trying to provide as much comfort to humans as possible, is a juggling act. We should learn what works, keeping in mind that there are, hopefully, future generations that will require the same resources. It is not simple, but there are better solutions than others and no one solution will take care of business. A really good source of information on this is E.O. Wilson's book "Half-Earth." Worth the read.

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