Why Does Seattle Have Smog?

I sometimes wonder what one would believe about the world if all of one’s information were derived from reading op-eds in the New York Times. In her op-ed in today’s NYT, author Lindy West laments Seattle’s smog:

Seattle this week looks like one of those old photos of America’s smog-socked skylines from before the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, an echo as oddly hopeful as it is horrifying. The thing about human-made climate change is that it’s human-made, which means that humans, to some degree, can unmake it. It will take more than good liberals composting their pizza boxes. We need to make profound changes to the way that industry, commerce and corporations function in this country, which means that we need government intervention, which means, unfortunately, that we need a different government. Let your representatives know that, and remember it in 2018.

The problem with this is that regardless of the merits of the arguments about anthropogenic climate change due to emissions of carbon dioxide, climate change has little or nothing to do with smog in Seattle. Seattle has always had smog. Los Angeles and Seattle have smog because of their physical geography and too many people. When the Spaniards first saw the Los Angeles area in 1542 they called it Baya de los Fumos, the Bay of Smokes. That wasn’t because of human-produced carbon emissions.

Even were Seattle to implement draconian measures to curb smog, its air quality problems won’t go away. Look at the wind patterns in the North Pacific. Seattle has at least one additional smog day per year because of Chinese air pollution.

3 comments… add one
  • TastyBits

    The best thing about being “science-based” is never needing to understand anything scientific.

  • Bill Beyer

    Ummm… I actually live near Seattle- the ‘smog’ was smoke from a fire in British Columbia, covering most of Washington.

  • Were there fires in British Columbia before people started complaining about carbon emissions and climate change? I believe there were.

    My point was that regardless of the fire in British Columbia Seattle has had smog. It was better 30 years ago than it was 70 years ago due to clean air laws (and the end of coal-fired locomotives). It’s worse now than it was 30 years ago because it has more people.

    Whatever you think about climate change it has practically nothing to do with air quality in Seattle.

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