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“The Cut” is a weekly reporters notebook-type essay by an Ideastream Public Media content creator, reflecting on the news and on life in Northeast Ohio. What exactly does “The Cut” mean? It's a throwback to the old days of using a razor blade to cut analog tape. In radio lingo, we refer to sound bites as “cuts.” So think of these behind-the-scene essays as “cuts” from Ideastream's producers.

Planning for clean air and blue skies

A stock image of clouds in a blue sky.
Sunny Forest
Air pollution poses a unique risk to low-income people, communities of color and high-risk populations like the elderly, those with respiratory condition and people who work outdoors. International Day of Clean Air for blue skies is a day to advocate for continuous effort around air pollution reduction at a global scale.

Happy Thursday!

While being just one day away from the weekend might be reason enough to celebrate, I’d like to take a moment to take a deep breath and recognize another. Today is the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.

The holiday was founded by the United Nations on Sept. 7, 2020, to raise awareness of air pollution and to create a global push for change.

Earlier this summer, Canadian wildfire smoke created a haze across the northern part of the country, creating concerns over air quality due to fine particulate matter that’s classified by the World Health Organization as a cause of cardiovascular and respiratory disease and cancers.

But wildfire smoke isn’t the only contributor to worsened air quality.

According to a 2020 report by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, transportation is the biggest contributor to emissions nationally, and the second greatest contributor in Ohio. Of the agency’s five-county region, Cuyahoga County is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions at nearly 57%.

Research shows that greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere. That makes our planet warmer, contributing to a global warming. And according to the World Health Organization, many sources of outdoor air pollutions are also sources of high carbon dioxide emissions.

Air pollution poses an increase risk for people with respiratory conditions like asthma, the elderly and those who work outdoors. It can disproportionately effect low-income individuals and communities of color, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Our atmosphere and the air we breathe would likely look very different if not for the historic Clean Air Act of 1963 that enabled the federal government to monitor the nation’s air quality, limit air polluters and regulate emission sources.

With this annual holiday, the United Nations is advocating for continued collaborative efforts to further reduce air pollution. This year, the theme is “Together for Clean Air” to advocate for strong partnerships and investments in air pollution solutions at a global scale.

Cities like Cleveland, Lakewood and Oberlin already have implemented climate action plans that highlight current greenhouse gas emission levels that contribute to worsened air quality, and goals or plans for reducing those emissions.

I’ve been doing continuous coverage of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency’s ongoing effort to develop a climate action plan for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties that will, in part, take greenhouse gas emission levels into account.

These plans may be easy to write off and ignore, but according to the U.S. EPA, plans like these — along with regulation, partnership programs and individual action — can help keep our air clean and breathable.

If you have questions about air quality, emissions or anything environment related, ask us here!

"The Cut" is featured in Ideastream Public Media's weekly newsletter, The Frequency Week in Review. To get The Frequency Week in Review, The Daily Frequency or any of our newsletters, sign up on Ideastream's newsletter subscription page.

Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.