By Garrison Frost, Director of Marketing and Communications—Audubon California

Los Angeles Pollution Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

The recent release of findings from the American Lung Association about the dangers of air pollution in California puts more urgency into current legislative efforts to reduce carbon pollution. While air pollution in the form of greenhouse gas emissions is the leading cause of global warming, air pollution is also a major threat to public health, as well as the health of our birds and environment. We need to be able to breathe clean air if we are to truly enjoy the natural wonders of California.

Audubon California is supporting a legislative package moving through the California State Senate aimed at addressing the problem of carbon pollution and air pollution. Prominent among the bills in the package are Senate Bill 32, which would expand California’s current climate pollution reduction target to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, and Senate Bill 350, which calls for a 50% reduction in petroleum use in cars and trucks, a 50% increase in energy efficiency in buildings, and a goal of 50% of state utilities’ power coming from renewable energy, all by 2030.

Audubon’s own research shows that global warming caused by carbon pollution will threaten 170 California bird species in the coming decades. This includes iconic birds including: Brown Pelican, Golden Eagle, Allen's Hummingbird, and the Yellow-billed Magpie, to name just a few.

But the American Lung Association’s 2015 State of the Air Report makes it clear that the stakes are high for Californians, as well:

• Seventy percent of Californians (28 million residents) live in counties affected by unhealthy air.

• Eight California cities appeared among the top-ten most polluted metro areas in the nation for ozone and particle pollution. (Bakersfield, El Centro, Fresno, Hanford, Visalia, Los Angeles, Modesto-Merced, Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area).

• All 8 San Joaquin Valley counties experienced higher numbers of unhealthy particle days, and received a failing grades.

• The Los Angeles metro area remains ranked among the five most polluted in the nation for ozone and short-term and annual particles. Parts of the Los Angeles region experience more than 100 unhealthy ozone days per year.

Western Tanager Vol. 81 No. 6 July August 2015 (PDF)