White Paper: Air Pollution
There are many issues today that are worthy of attention from public policy makers. Sadly, one of the most important issues is also one that is often overlooked: air pollution. We all breathe in the air that is outside. This issue is quite literally relevant to every citizen, as the quality of air has a direct impact on their lives and well-being. The issue of air pollution has been professionally discussed by scientists since the year 1948, yet today, over seventy years later, not much seemed to have changed regarding the public policies surrounding this very serious matter.
In the field of environment, there are some key players that have worked hard to combat the issue of air pollution in the ways they can. One of the most significant key players regarding this issue is the Environmental Protection Agency, otherwise known as the EPA. The EPA is in charge of both setting and regulating many of the policies we have in place today regarding air pollution. The agency monitors the air quality standards for the top 6 pollutants specifically: particulate matter, photochemical oxidants, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and lead (EPA, 2020). These regulations are why motor vehicle drivers need to run emissions tests on their vehicles on a biennial basis.
While air pollution has been a known issue for over 70 years, there does not seem to have been too many strict policies put in place to target the problem, but rather to simply keep it at bay. The current policies seem to be helping maintain the general level of pollution, but we should strive for something greater than mere consistency in the charts. We need a change that will not only keep pollution at bay, but one that will yield significant results.
Factors that contribute to air pollution have been around for centuries, and they range in intensity. While air pollution can manifest itself in things like smoke or pollen, it is not always visible. In fact, one of the biggest culprits when it comes to the worsening air quality is often invisible to the naked eye– motor vehicle emissions.
Air pollution is a serious issue with several implications. Effects of air pollution are actually linked to issues surrounding climate change, a fact that is not commonly known. Another effect of regular exposure to air pollution, and one that most people are thankfully at least somewhat aware of, is an increased risk of disease and health issues on those who breathe in the polluted air.
Industrial facilities have long posed a threat on air quality. Additionally, the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for 50% of the pollution in the United States (Green Journal, 2019). Gas-fueled motor vehicles certainly contribute to this. None of these challenges are going to disappear overnight. However, there are some regulations and policies in place to tackle them. While the challenges persist, the regulations try to minimize the damage that they cause. Yet no matter how hard these policies try to keep the issue at bay, the current policies in place are not enough to actually yield significant results. These policies may have proven to be effective at keeping air pollution levels fairly consistent over the years, but that is not good enough. What we need is to strive for a better solution—one that helps us achieve higher air quality than ever before.
Humans have come a long way in the past two decades. We are in an unprecedented age of technology. Technological advancements have changed the way we do everything, so why not use these advances to our advantage in the fight against air pollution? As stated above, one of the main causes of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels, and one of the main reasons we burn fossil fuels is to fill up our cars’ gas tanks. There may be some eco-friendly electric car options on the market today, but their existence alone is not enough to significantly drop the levels of air pollution because most people cannot afford to buy a new car, let alone an electric one. The shift to electric vehicles is certainly necessary for the overall well-being of our planet, but it is best to leave that change be and allow it to happen gradually.
The solution I am proposing as a concerned citizen activist is to enact a policy that grants employees the ability to work remotely whenever possible, and incentivize companies to make the switch to fully remote operations.
This policy has the potential to yield significant results. Firstly, it is a policy that would be relatively low-cost and high-reward. By switching operations to having mostly remote employees, companies would actually save money—and the cost for the government to incentivize them to do this would be well worth the trade. Secondly, while every policy is subject to public resistance, many polls suggest that most employees want to have the ability to work remotely. Employees all over the country have gotten a taste of what it is like to work remotely due to the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since, many have expressed the desire to keep the option of telework available even after life returns to normal.
Working remotely would lead to significantly less cars on the road, and less cars on the road would mean less carbon emissions going into the atmosphere. This change would not only reduce air pollution levels, but it can even reverse some of the damage caused to our ozone layer that contributes to climate change. Additionally, with more people working from home, the need for office spaces would drastically decrease, which would in turn save significant amounts of energy that would have otherwise been providing large office buildings everywhere with air conditioning and constant lighting.
In conclusion, air pollution poses a threat to any living, breathing thing. Humans and animals alike can both suffer from the adverse health effects caused by low air quality. While the current policies in place do keep air pollution at bay, we need a new policy that is suitable and appropriate when it comes to today’s world. Enacting a policy that allows employees to work from home and incentivizes companies to adopt this change would be beneficial in many ways. There would be a significant decrease in pollution due to the decrease in commuters’ cars on the road. Also, the need for office buildings would decrease significantly, and so too would their sky-high consumption of energy. Additionally, companies would save a lot of money that they could reallocate, which would allow them to raise their employees’ salaries so that they can afford accommodations for a home office. Finally, employees would have the freedom to work from anywhere, meaning they could move away from crowded cities and into other cities, which would ultimately improve the economy and housing market as well.
History of Air Pollution. (2020, June 10). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/air-research/history-air-pollution
Can Industrial Factories Reduce Their Impact on Air Quality? (2019, December 30). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.greenjournal.co.uk/2019/12/can-industrial-factories-reduce-their-impact-on-air-quality/