Several West Coast Cities Have the World's Worst Air
The wildfires raging across the West Coast have made the air quality so bad in several U.S. cities that they rank among the worst in the world. In fact, the air quality in Portland, Oregon was so bad on Sunday that it went off the charts when it passed 500 on an air quality index. Anything in the 300 to 500 range is hazardous to health, according to Oregon Live.
Those staggering numbers put Portland squarely in the number one position as having the world's worst air quality.
"It's as bad as a place can be," said Dr. Jennifer Vines, a Multnomah County Health officer. Portland is in Multnomah County.
Other large cities on the West Coast also made the top 10, including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, which ranked third, sixth and eighth, respectively, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In Washington state, the air quality was so bad that the instruments used for reading air quality broke down, rejecting the numbers as unreliable, according to The New York Times.
Andy Wineke, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Ecology, said on Sunday that a handful of reading points had ceased reporting data because automated quality control checks said the astronomical readings meant the data was unreliable, according to The New York Times.
"There's some trigger in the quality-control check that said the sustained readings were high," Wineke said. Officials were trying to change the system to allow the data so it could be included on the state's air-monitoring maps.
The smoke from the wildfires made the air extremely dangerous and life-threatening for people with respiratory conditions. In some places, residents said they could not see more than 50 feet in front of them, according to The Washington Post. While residents were instructed to stay indoors, some were coughing and choking while inside.
"The sun doesn't seem to rise or set. The sky gets a little bit brighter and a little bit darker and that's how you know the day is starting or ending," said Eileen Quigley, founder and executive director of the Clean Energy Transition Institute in Seattle, as The Washington Post reported.
Vines told The New York Times that the health systems on the West Coast that are already strained by the coronavirus are seeing an uptick in people coming in who are having trouble breathing. Of course, the people most vulnerable to the insidious effects of the smoke are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus as well.
"It's just an unfortunate overlap," Vines said of the confluence of the virus and the fires, according to The New York Times.
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley told ABC News that he drove 600 miles up and down the Oregon coast and could not escape the smoke. In the same broadcast, Washington Governor Jay Inslee said, "We have a blowtorch over our states in the West, which is climate change."
The pall of smoke that has shrouded Portland and its surrounding areas has reduced visibility so much that it's dangerous to drive and difficult for rescue crews and fire services to navigate bridges and roads.
"Our challenges remain reduced visibility, limiting our aerial reconnaissance, and rapidly changing fire conditions," Clackamas County fire officials said in a statement Saturday, as The Washington Post reported.
Some moisture and rain is expected to bring relief Tuesday and dying winds raise hope that firefighters will soon be able to contain the blazes engulfing the West Coast, according to The Washington Post.
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By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.