Air Quality and Active Citizenship

The Hinckley Institute Radio Hour (Original Air Date: March 4, 2020) —This week on the program, a panel of experts offers insights and ideas on how we can all work to improve air quality in Utah through activism, engagement, mobilization and accountability. They also discuss why air quality is essential to environmental sustainability and public health, as bad air contributes to increased rates of deadly diseases and shorter lifespans.

An analysis of air quality released in January examined 2018 air-quality data and found that Salt Lake City has some of the worst air quality in the nation, coming in at number 7 among large metro areas. Earlier this month, University of Utah researchers put out a report showing the difference in air quality during quarantine conditions. The data showed a decrease of traffic by 40 to 50 percent due to the coronavirus mitigation efforts led to nitric oxide levels dropping by 57 percent, nitrogen dioxide dropping by 36 percent and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) dropping by 59 percent in comparison to yearly averages. Carbon dioxide—the most prevalent greenhouse gas—dropped by 19 percent and 33 percent in the Sugarhouse and University of Utah areas, respectively. While the decline in traffic didn’t affect all air quality signifiers, such as ozone and sulfur dioxide, the significant drop in statewide air pollution has jump-started a conversation on the environmental benefits of Utahns teleconferencing and working from home.

Today’s panel highlights local efforts to improve air quality, as well as how individuals can get involved directly. On the panel is Logan E. Mitchell, Ph.D. and research assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah; Scott Williams, Executive Director of HEAL Utah; and Jonny Vasic, Executive Director for Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. Moderating the discussion is Piper Christian, student ambassador from the U’s Sustainability Office.

This forum was recorded on February 11, 2020.

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