16 Oct

Environmental journalism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Environmental journalism is the collection, verification, production, distribution and exhibition of information regarding current events, trends, issues and people that are associated with the non-human world with which humans necessarily interact. To be an environmental journalist, one must have an understanding of scientific language and practice, knowledge of historical environmental events, the ability to keep abreast of environmental policy decisions and the work of environmental organizations, a general understanding of current environmental concerns, and the ability to communicate all of that information to the public in such a way that it can be easily understood, despite its complexity.

Environmental journalism falls within the scope of environmental communication, and its roots can be traced to nature writing. One key controversy in environmental journalism is a continuing disagreement over how to distinguish it from its allied genres and discipline


While the practice of nature writing has a rich history that dates back at least as far as the exploration narratives of Christopher Columbus, and follows tradition up through prominent nature writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in the late 19th century, John Burroughs and John Muir in the early 20th century, and Aldo Leopold in the 1940s, the field of environmental journalism did not begin to take shape until the 1960s and 1970s.

The growth of environmental journalism as a profession roughly parallels that of the environmental movement, which became a mainstream cultural movement with the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and was further legitimized by the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. Grassroots environmental organizations made a booming appearance on the political scene in the 1960s and 1970s, raising public awareness of what many considered to be the “environmental crisis,” and working to influence environmental policy decisions. The mass media has followed and generated public interest on environmental issues ever since.

The field of environmental journalism was further legitimized by the creation of the Society of Environmental Journalists in 1990, whose mission “is to advance public understanding of environmental issues by improving the quality, accuracy, and visibility of environmental reporting.” Today, academic programs are offered at a number of institutions to train budding journalists in the rigors, complexity and sheer breadth of environmental journalism.

Advocacy debate

There exists a minor rift in the community of environmental journalists. Some, including those in the Society of Environmental Journalists, believe in objectively reporting environmental news, while others, like Michael Frome, a prominent figure in the field, believe that journalists should only enter the environmental side of the field if saving the planet is a personal passion, and that environmental journalists should not shy away from environmental advocacy, though not at the expense of clearly relating facts and opinions on all sides of an issue. This debate is not likely to be settled soon, but with changes in the field of journalism filtering up from new media being used by the general public to produce news, it seems likely that the field of environmental journalism will lend itself more and more toward reporting points of view akin to environmental advocacy.


Donors wishing to support environmental journalism workshops need to ask whether the training they finance is done on bequest of the reporters. In a review of environmental journalism, concluded that there is a great deal of ‘philanthropic’ work that does not stick simply because it is not requested. <[1]>


Environmental communication is all of the forms of communication that are engaged with the social debate about environmental issues and problems.[1]

Also within the scope of environmental communication are the genres of nature writing, science writing, environmental literature, environmental interpretation and environmental advocacy. While there is a great deal of overlap among the various genres within environmental communication, they are each deserving of their own definition.

Nature writing

Nature writing is the genre with the longest history in environmental communication. In his book, This Incomparable Land: A Guide to American Nature Writing, Thomas J. Lyon attempts to use a “taxonomy of nature writing” in order to define the genre. He suggests that his classifications, too, suffer a great deal of overlap and intergrading. “The literature of nature has three main dimensions to it: natural history information, personal responses to nature, and philosophical interpretation of nature” (Lyon 20). In the natural history essay, “the main burden of the writing is to convey pointed instruction in the facts of nature,” such as with the ramble-type nature writing of John Burroughs (Lyon 21). “In essays of experience, the author’s firsthand contact with nature is the frame for the writing,” as with Edward Abbey’s contemplation of a desert sunset (Lyon 23). In the philosophical interpretation of nature, the content is similar to that of the natural history and personal experience essays, “but the mode of presentation tends to be more abstract and scholarly” (Lyon 25). The Norton Book of Nature Writing adds a few new dimensions to the genre of nature writing, including animal narratives, garden essays, farming essays, ecofeminist works, writing on environmental justice, and works advocating environmental preservation, sustainability and biological diversity. Environmental journalism pulls from the tradition and scope of nature writing.

Science writing

Science writing is writing that focuses specifically on topics of scientific study, generally translating jargon that is difficult for those outside a particular scientific field to understand into language that is easily digestible. This genre can be narrative or informative. Not all science writing falls within the bounds of environmental communication, only science writing that takes on topics relevant to the environment. Environmental journalism also pulls from the tradition and scope of science writing.

Environmental interpretation

Environmental interpretation is a particular format for the communication of relevant information. It “involves translating the technical language of a natural science or related field into terms and ideas that people who aren’t scientists can readily understand. And it involves doing it in a way that’s entertaining and interesting to these people” (Ham 3). Environmental interpretation is pleasurable (to engage an audience in the topic and inspire them to learn more about it), relevant (meaningful and personal to the audience so that they have an intrinsic reason to learn more about the topic), organized (easy to follow and structured so that main points are likely to be remembered) and thematic (the information is related to a specific, repetitious message) (Ham 8–28). While environmental journalism is not derived from environmental interpretation, it can employ interpretive techniques to explain difficult concepts to its audience.

Environmental literature

Environmental literature is writing that comments intelligently on environmental themes, particularly as applied to the relationships between man, society and the environment. Most nature writing and some science writing falls within the scope of environmental literature. Often, environmental literature is understood to espouse care and concern for the environment, thus advocating a more thoughtful and ecologically sensitive relationship of man to nature. Environmental journalism is partially derived from environmental literature

Environmental advocacy

Environmental advocacy is presenting information on nature and environmental issues that is decidedly opinionated and encourages its audience to adopt more environmentally sensitive attitudes, often more biocentric worldviews. Environmental advocacy can be present in any of the aforementioned genres of environmental communication. It is currently debated whether environmental journalism should employ techniques of environmental advocacy.


The field of environmental journalism covers a wide variety of topics. According to The Reporter’s Environmental Handbook, environmental journalists perceive water concerns as the most important environmental issue, followed by atmospheric air pollution concerns, endocrine disruptors, and waste management issues. The journalists surveyed were more likely to prioritize specific, local environmental issues than global environmental concerns.

Air pollution

Air pollution is the human introduction into the atmosphere of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damages the environment.[1] Air pollution causes deaths[2] and respiratory disease.[3] Air pollution is often identified with major stationary sources, but the greatest source of emissions is mobile sources, mainly automobiles.[4] Gases such as carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming, have recently gained recognition as pollutants by climate scientists, while they also recognize that carbon dioxide is essential for plant life through photosynthesis.

The atmosphere is a complex, dynamic natural gaseous system that is essential to support life on planet Earth. Stratospheric ozone depletion due to air pollution has long been recognized as a threat to human health as well as to the Earth’s ecosystems.


Before flue gas desulfurization was installed, the emissions from this power plant in New Mexico contained excessive amounts of sulfur dioxide.

There are many substances in the air which may impair the health of plants and animals (including humans), or reduce visibility. These arise both from natural processes and human activity. Substances not naturally found in the air or at greater concentrations or in different locations from usual are referred to as pollutants.

Pollutants can be classified as either primary or secondary. Usually, primary pollutants are substances directly emitted from a process, such as ash from a volcanic eruption, the carbon monoxide gas from a motor vehicle exhaust or sulfur dioxide released from factories.

Secondary pollutants are not emitted directly. Rather, they form in the air when primary pollutants react or interact. An important example of a secondary pollutant is ground level ozone – one of the many secondary pollutants that make up photochemical smog.

Note that some pollutants may be both primary and secondary: that is, they are both emitted directly and formed from other primary pollutants.

Major primary pollutants produced by human activity include:

Secondary pollutants include:

  • Particulate matter formed from gaseous primary pollutants and compounds in photochemical smog, such as nitrogen dioxide.
  • Ground level ozone (O3) formed from NOx and VOCs.
  • Peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) similarly formed from NOx and VOCs.

Minor air pollutants include:


Main article: AP 42 Compilation of Air Pollutant Emission Factors

Controlled burning of a field outside of Statesboro, Georgia in preparation for spring planting

Puxi area of Shanghai at sunset. The sun has not actually dropped below the horizon yet, rather it has reached the smog line.

Sources of air pollution refer to the various locations, activities or factors which are responsible for the releasing of pollutants in the atmosphere. These sources can be classified into two major categories which are:

Anthropogenic sources (human activity) mostly related to burning different kinds of fuel

Natural sources

Emission factors

{{main|AP 42 Compilation of Air Pollutant Emission Factors} Air pollutant emission factors are representative values that attempt to relate the quantity of a pollutant released to the ambient air with an activity associated with the release of that pollutant. These factors are usually expressed as the weight of pollutant divided by a unit weight, volume, distance, or duration of the activity emitting the pollutant (e.g., kilograms of particulate emitted per megagram of coal burned). Such factors facilitate estimation of emissions from various sources of air pollution. In most cases, these factors are simply averages of all available data of acceptable quality, and are generally assumed to be representative of long-term averages.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has published a compilation of air pollutant emission factors for a multitude of industrial sources.[5] The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and other countries have published similar compilations, as has the European Environment Agency.[6][7][8][9][10]

Indoor air quality (IAQ)

Main article: Indoor air quality

A lack of ventilation indoors concentrates air pollution where people often spend the majority of their time. Radon (Rn) gas, a carcinogen, is exuded from the Earth in certain locations and trapped inside houses. Building materials including carpeting and plywood emit formaldehyde (H2CO) gas. Paint and solvents give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as they dry. Lead paint can degenerate into dust and be inhaled. Intentional air pollution is introduced with the use of air fresheners, incense, and other scented items. Controlled wood fires in stoves and fireplaces can add significant amounts of smoke particulates into the air, inside and out. Indoor pollution fatalities may be caused by using pesticides and other chemical sprays indoors without proper ventilation.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and fatalities are often caused by faulty vents and chimneys, or by the burning of charcoal indoors. Chronic carbon monoxide poisoning can result even from poorly adjusted pilot lights. Traps are built into all domestic plumbing to keep sewer gas, hydrogen sulfide, out of interiors. Clothing emits tetrachloroethylene, or other dry cleaning fluids, for days after dry cleaning.

Though its use has now been banned in many countries, the extensive use of asbestos in industrial and domestic environments in the past has left a potentially very dangerous material in many localities. Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory medical condition affecting the tissue of the lungs. It occurs after long-term, heavy exposure to asbestos from asbestos-containing materials in structures. Sufferers have severe dyspnea (shortness of breath) and are at an increased risk regarding several different types of lung cancer. As clear explanations are not always stressed in non-technical literature, care should be taken to distinguish between several forms of relevant diseases. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), these may defined as; asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma (generally a very rare form of cancer, when more widespread it is almost always associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos).

Biological sources of air pollution are also found indoors, as gases and airborne particulates. Pets produce dander, people produce dust from minute skin flakes and decomposed hair, dust mites in bedding, carpeting and furniture produce enzymes and micrometre-sized fecal droppings, inhabitants emit methane, mold forms in walls and generates mycotoxins and spores, air conditioning systems can incubate Legionnaires’ disease and mold, and houseplants, soil and surrounding gardens can produce pollen, dust, and mold. Indoors, the lack of air circulation allows these airborne pollutants to accumulate more than they would otherwise occur in nature.

Health effects

The World Health Organization states that 2.4 million people die each year from causes directly attributable to air pollution, with 1.5 million of these deaths attributable to indoor air pollution.[3]Epidemiological studies suggest that more than 500,000 Americans die each year from cardiopulmonary disease linked to breathing fine particle air pollution. . .”[11] A study by the University of Birmingham has shown a strong correlation between pneumonia related deaths and air pollution from motor vehicles.[12] Worldwide more deaths per year are linked to air pollution than to automobile accidents.[citation needed] Published in 2005 suggests that 310,000 Europeans die from air pollution annually.[citation needed] Direct causes of air pollution related deaths include aggravated asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, lung and heart diseases, and respiratory allergies.[citation needed] The US EPA estimates that a proposed set of changes in diesel engine technology (Tier 2) could result in 12,000 fewer premature mortalities, 15,000 fewer heart attacks, 6,000 fewer emergency room visits by children with asthma, and 8,900 fewer respiratory-related hospital admissions each year in the United States.[citation needed]

The worst short term civilian pollution crisis in India was the 1984 Bhopal Disaster.[13] Leaked industrial vapors from the Union Carbide factory, belonging to Union Carbide, Inc., U.S.A., killed more than 2,000 people outright and injured anywhere from 150,000 to 600,000 others, some 6,000 of whom would later die from their injuries.[citation needed] The United Kingdom suffered its worst air pollution event when the December 4 Great Smog of 1952 formed over London. In six days more than 4,000 died, and 8,000 more died within the following months.[citation needed] An accidental leak of anthrax spores from a biological warfare laboratory in the former USSR in 1979 near Sverdlovsk is believed to have been the cause of hundreds of civilian deaths.[citation needed] The worst single incident of air pollution to occur in the United States of America occurred in Donora, Pennsylvania in late October, 1948, when 20 people died and over 7,000 were injured.[14]

The health effects caused by air pollutants may range from subtle biochemical and physiological changes to difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing and aggravation of existing respiratory and cardiac conditions. These effects can result in increased medication use, increased doctor or emergency room visits, more hospital admissions and premature death. The human health effects of poor air quality are far reaching, but principally affect the body’s respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Individual reactions to air pollutants depend on the type of pollutant a person is exposed to, the degree of exposure, the individual’s health status and genetics.[citation needed]

Effects on cystic fibrosis

Main article: Cystic fibrosis

A study from 1999 to 2000 by the University of Washington showed that patients near and around particulate matter air pollution had an increased risk of pulmonary exacerbations and decrease in lung function.[15] Patients were examined before the study for amounts of specific pollutants like Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Burkholderia cenocepacia as well as their socioeconomic standing. Participants involved in the study were located in the United States in close proximity to an Environmental Protection Agency.[clarify] During the time of the study 117 deaths were associated with air pollution. A trend was noticed that patients living closer or in large metropolitan areas to be close to medical help also had higher level of pollutants found in their system because of more emissions in larger cities. With cystic fibrosis patients already being born with decreased lung function everyday pollutants such as smoke emissions from automobiles, tobacco smoke and improper use of indoor heating devices could add to the dissemination of lung function.[16]

Effects on COPD

Main article: COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) include diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and some forms of asthma.[17] Two researchers Holland and Reid conducted research on 293 male postal workers in London during the time of the Great Smog of 1952 incident and 477 male postal workers in the rural setting. The volume of air that could be exhaled in 1 second (FEV1) was significantly lower in urban employees due to city pollutions such as car fumes and increased amount of cigarette exposure.[18][verification needed] It is believed that much like cystic fibrosis, by living in a more urban environment serious health hazards become more apparent. Studies have shown that in urban areas patients suffer mucus hypersecretion, lower levels of lung function, and more self diagnosis of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.[19]

The Great Smog of 1952

Main article: Great Smog of 1952

In the matter of four days a combination of dense fog and sooty black coal smoke came over the London area.[20] The fog was so dense residents of London could not see in front of them. The extreme reduction in visibility was accompanied by an increase in criminal activity as well as transportation delays and a virtual shut down of the city. During the 4 day period of the fog 12,000 are believed to have been killed.[21]

Effects on children

Cities around the world with high exposure to air pollutants has the possibility of children living within them to develop asthma, pneumonia and other lower respiratory infections as well as a low initial birth rate. Protective measures to ensure the youths health is being taken in cities such as New Delhi, India where buses now use compressed natural gas to help eliminate the “pea-soup” fog.[22] Research by the World Health Organization shows there is the greatest concentration of particulate matter particles in countries with low economic world power and high poverty and population rates. Examples of these countries include Egypt, Sudan, Mongolia, and Indonesia. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, however in 2002 at least 146 million Americans were living in areas that did not meet at least one of the “criteria pollutants” laid out in the 1997 National Ambient Air Quality Standards.[23] Those pollutants included: ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead. Because children are outdoors more and have higher minute ventilation they are more susceptible to the dangers of air pollution.

Reduction efforts

There are various air pollution control technologies and urban planning strategies available to reduce air pollution.

Efforts to reduce pollution from mobile sources includes primary regulation (many developing countries have permissive regulations),[citation needed] expanding regulation to new sources (such as cruise and transport ships, farm equipment, and small gas-powered equipment such as lawn trimmers, chainsaws, and snowmobiles), increased fuel efficiency (such as through the use of hybrid vehicles), conversion to cleaner fuels (such as bioethanol, biodiesel, or conversion to electric vehicles).

Control devices

The following items are commonly used as pollution control devices by industry or transportation devices. They can either destroy contaminants or remove them from an exhaust stream before it is emitted into the atmosphere.

Legal regulations

Smog in Cairo

In general, there are two types of air quality standards. The first class of standards (such as the U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards) set maximum atmospheric concentrations for specific pollutants. Environmental agencies enact regulations which are intended to result in attainment of these target levels. The second class (such as the North American Air Quality Index) take the form of a scale with various thresholds, which is used to communicate to the public the relative risk of outdoor activity. The scale may or may not distinguish between different pollutants.


In Canada, air quality is typically evaluated against standards set by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), an inter-governmental body of federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for the environment. The CCME has set Canada Wide Standards(CWS).[24][25] These are:

  • CWS for PM2.5 = 30 µg/m3 (24 hour averaging time, by year 2010, based on 98th percentile ambient measurement annually, averaged over 3 consecutive years).
  • CWS for ozone = 65 ppb (8-hour averaging time, by year 2010, achievement is based on the 4th highest measurement annually, averaged over 3 consecutive years.

Note that there is no consequence in Canada to not achieving these standards. In addition, these only apply to jurisdictions with populations greater than 100,000. Further, provinces and territories may set more stringent standards than those set by the CCME.

European Union

A report from the European Environment Agency shows that road transport remains Europe’s single largest air polluter [26] .

National Emission Ceilings (NEC) for certain atmospheric pollutants are regulated by Directive 2001/81/EC (NECD).[27] As part of the preparatory work associated with the revision of the NECD, the European Commission is assisted by the NECPI working group (National Emission Ceilings – Policy Instruments).[28]

Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (the new Air Quality Directive) has entried into force 2008-06-11 [29].

Individual citizens can force their local councils to tackle air pollution, following an important ruling in July 2008 from the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The EU’s court was asked to judge the case of a resident of Munich, Dieter Janecek, who said that under the 1996 EU Air Quality Directive (Council Directive 96/62/EC of 27 September 1996 on ambient air quality assessment and management [30]) the Munich authorities were obliged to take action to stop pollution exceeding specified targets. Janecek then took his case to the ECJ, whose judges said European citizens are entitled to demand air quality action plans from local authorities in situations where there is a risk that EU limits will be overshot. [31] .

United Kingdom

Air quality targets set by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are mostly aimed at local government representatives responsible for the management of air quality in cities, where air quality management is the most urgent. The UK has established an air quality network where levels of the key air pollutants[32] are published by monitoring centers.[33] Air quality in Oxford, Bath and London[34] is particularly poor. One controversial study[35] performed by the Calor Gas company and published in the Guardian newspaper compared walking in Oxford on an average day to smoking over sixty light cigarettes.

More precise comparisons can be collected from the UK Air Quality Archive[36] which allows the user to compare a cities management of pollutants against the national air quality objectives[37] set by DEFRA in 2000.

Localized peak values are often cited, but average values are also important to human health. The UK National Air Quality Information Archive offers almost real-time monitoring of “current maximum” air pollution measurements for many UK towns and cities.[38] This source offers a wide range of constantly updated data, including:

  • Hourly Mean Ozone (µg/m³)
  • Hourly Mean Nitrogen dioxide (µg/m³)
  • Maximum 15-Minute Mean Sulphur dioxide (µg/m³)
  • 8-Hour Mean Carbon monoxide (mg/m³)
  • 24-Hour Mean PM10 (µg/m³ Grav Equiv)

DEFRA acknowledges that air pollution has a significant effect on health and has produced a simple banding index system[39] is used to create a daily warning system that is issued by the BBC Weather Service to indicate air pollution levels.[40] DEFRA has published guidelines for people suffering from respiratory and heart diseases.[41]

United States

Looking down from the Hollywood Hills, with Griffith Observatory on the hill in the foreground, air pollution is visible in downtown Los Angeles on a late afternoon.

In the 1960s, 70s, and 90s, the United States Congress enacted a series of Clean Air Acts which significantly strengthened regulation of air pollution. Individual U.S. states, some European nations and eventually the European Union followed these initiatives. The Clean Air Act sets numerical limits on the concentrations of a basic group of air pollutants and provide reporting and enforcement mechanisms.

In 1999, the United States EPA replaced the Pollution Standards Index (PSI) with the Air Quality Index (AQI) to incorporate new PM2.5 and Ozone standards.

The effects of these laws have been very positive. In the United States between 1970 and 2006, citizens enjoyed the following reductions in annual pollution emissions:[42]

  • carbon monoxide emissions fell from 197 million tons to 89 million tons
  • nitrogen oxide emissions fell from 27 million tons to 19 million tons
  • sulfur dioxide emissions fell from 31 million tons to 15 million tons
  • particulate emissions fell by 80%
  • lead emissions fell by more than 98%

In an October 2006 letter to EPA, the agency’s independent scientific advisors warned that the ozone smog standard “needs to be substantially reduced” and that there is “no scientific justification” for retaining the current, weaker standard. The scientists unanimously recommended a smog threshold of 60 to 70 ppb after they conducted an extensive review of the evidence. [43]

The EPA has proposed, in June 2007, a new threshold of 75 ppb. This is less strict than the scientific recommendation, but is more strict the current standard.

Some industries are lobbying to keep the current standards in place. Environmentalists and public health advocates are mobilizing to support the scientific recommendations.[citation needed]

The National Ambient Air Quality Standards are pollution thresholds which trigger mandatory remediation plans by state and local governments, subject to enforcement by the EPA.

An outpouring of dust layered with man-made sulfates, smog, industrial fumes, carbon grit, and nitrates is crossing the Pacific Ocean on prevailing winds from booming Asian economies in plumes so vast they alter the climate. Almost a third of the air over Los Angeles and San Francisco can be traced directly to Asia. With it comes up to three-quarters of the black carbon particulate pollution that reaches the West Coast. [44]

Libertarians typically suggest propertarian methods of stopping pollution. They advocate strict liability which would hold accountable anyone who causes polluted air to emanate into someone else’s airspace. This offense would be considered aggression, and damages could be sought in court under the common law, possibly through class action suits.[45] Since in a libertarian society, highways would be privatized under a system of free market roads, the highway owners would also be held liable for pollution emanating from vehicles traveling along their property. This would give them a financial incentive to keep the worst polluters off of their roads.


Most Polluted Cities

Air pollution is usually concentrated in densely populated metropolitan areas, especially in developing countries where environmental regulations are generally relatively lax or nonexistent. However, even populated areas in developed countries attain unhealthy levels of pollution.

Atmospheric dispersion

Main article: Atmospheric dispersion modeling

The basic technology for analyzing air pollution is through the use of a variety of mathematical models for predicting the transport of air pollutants in the lower atmosphere. The principal methodologies are:

Visualization of a buoyant Gaussian air pollution dispersion plume as used in many atmospheric dispersion models

The point source problem is the best understood, since it involves simpler mathematics and has been studied for a long period of time, dating back to about the year 1900. It uses a Gaussian dispersion model for buoyant pollution plumes to forecast the air pollution isopleths, with consideration given to wind velocity, stack height, emission rate and stability class (a measure of atmospheric turbulence).[48][49] This model has been extensively validated and calibrated with experimental data for all sorts of atmospheric conditions.

The roadway air dispersion model was developed starting in the late 1950s and early 1960s in response to requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the U.S. Department of Transportation (then known as the Federal Highway Administration) to understand impacts of proposed new highways upon air quality, especially in urban areas. Several research groups were active in this model development, among which were: the Environmental Research and Technology (ERT) group in Lexington, Massachusetts, the ESL Inc. group in Sunnyvale, California and the California Air Resources Board group in Sacramento, California. The research of the ESL group received a boost with a contract award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to validate a line source model using sulfur hexafluoride as a tracer gas. This program was successful in validating the line source model developed by ESL inc. Some of the earliest uses of the model were in court cases involving highway air pollution, the Arlington, Virginia portion of Interstate 66 and the New Jersey Turnpike widening project through East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Area source models were developed in 1971 through 1974 by the ERT and ESL groups, but addressed a smaller fraction of total air pollution emissions, so that their use and need was not as widespread as the line source model, which enjoyed hundreds of different applications as early as the 1970s. Similarly photochemical models were developed primarily in the 1960s and 1970s, but their use was more specialized and for regional needs, such as understanding smog formation in Los Angeles, California.

Environmental impacts

Main articles: Ocean acidification and Greenhouse effect

The greenhouse effect is a phenomenon whereby greenhouse gases create a condition in the upper atmosphere causing a trapping of heat and leading to increased surface and lower tropospheric temperatures. It shares this property with many other gases, the largest overall forcing on Earth coming from water vapour. Other greenhouse gases include methane, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons, NOx, and ozone. Many greenhouse gases, contain carbon, and some of that from fossil fuels.

This effect has been understood by scientists for about a century, and technological advancements during this period have helped increase the breadth and depth of data relating to the phenomenon. Currently, scientists are studying the role of changes in composition of greenhouse gases from natural and anthropogenic sources for the effect on climate change.

A number of studies have also investigated the potential for long-term rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide to cause slight increases in the acidity of ocean waters and the possible effects of this on marine ecosystems. However, carbonic acid is a very weak acid, and is utilized by marine organisms during photosynthesis.

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