It is a scientifically proven fact that the Earth is growing warmer as the world continues to become more polluted. Greenhouse gases continue to be released into the atmosphere while the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is at its highest in recorded history. Here in the United States, New Jersey remains one of the most polluted states in the nation.
New Jersey currently ranks in the top 10 of fastest-warming states in the country, having experienced an average temperature increase of 3°F since 1970 according to research conducted by Climate Central. In comparison, the nation’s average temperature has risen 1.9°F, while the global average increase is similar at 1.8°F. On top of that, 11 of the state’s hottest summers have occurred within the past 20 years.
While 3°F seems like a small change in temperature, it poses a health risk for many New Jersey residents. In a report conducted by the American Lung Association, large portions of the state failed their State of the Air Test, which measures air quality throughout the country. North Jersey, along with New York City, was ranked the tenth worst metropolitan area in terms of air quality, while the Jersey Shore and South Jersey also received failing grades.
These failing grades are due to the amount of smog in the area, which in turn raises the amount of ozone in the troposphere. Smog occurs when pollution in the air is combined with hot and stagnant conditions, resulting in a dangerous environment for people with breathing difficulties.
Although ozone is good higher up in the atmosphere (in the stratosphere), it has been proven to be harmful to humans at the ground level (in the troposphere). Ozone, which is a component of smog, can trigger asthma attacks, putting at risk nearly 735,000 New Jersey citizens who have the condition.
Specifically, 8% of North Jersey’s population suffers from asthma while 10% of individuals in South Jersey are affected. These numbers do not account for those who suffer from other respiratory issues or heart problems. Although the number of asthma-related hospitalizations has dropped over the years, an average of 100 people die from asthma-related complications every year in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
While greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase in the state, there have been attempts to alleviate the amount of ozone closer to the ground. In 2016, PSEG Power closed its remaining coal-burning power plants in New Jersey. Located in Jersey City and Trenton, both were closed in favor of plants that burn cheaper and cleaner natural gases. The last remaining coal-burning plant in New Jersey, B.L. England’s Generating Station in Marmora, is set to close this month. The removal of coal-burning power plants could improve the state’s air quality and reduce the risk of respiratory issues for its residents.
Older vehicles reliant on diesel engines are also being phased out. State and federal governments have offered to buy back high-emission vehicles from private owners and have modified public service vehicles that relied on diesel fuel. Restrictions have also been imposed on diesel trucks to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Global warming is already having an effect on the planet whether or not people realize it. From plant life to animals, the studies now show that humans are also vulnerable to the side effects of their own carelessness.