In 2018, the National Weather Service in Albany issued two air quality advisories for the Twin Counties within a week at the height of a blistering six-day heat wave in late June and early July.
Ozone and other pollutants reached a whopping level of 110 on the Air Quality Index during that brutal week in the upper Hudson Valley, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation completed the trifecta by issuing a warning that Air Quality Index levels between 101 and 150 are unhealthy for children or adults who are active, people who work outdoors and people with respiratory diseases such as asthma.
Heat indices between 105 and 115 are the new summer normal as temperatures rocket into the upper 90s and tropical dewpoints soar to readings of 70 or more. So, while the Trump-emaciated EPA allows polluters to run roughshod over the environment instead of confronting the science of global warming, people in Columbia and Greene counties pay the price with asthma attacks and other serious respiratory maladies.
Above-average temperatures and oppressive levels of humidity lasting for days exacerbate ground-level ozone concentrations. The ozone becomes trapped by the stagnant atmosphere and becomes a sort of suffocating blanket that leaves sufferers of respiratory ailments gasping for air.
State and federal air quality regulations have generally helped decrease levels of trapped ozone over the last 20 years by cutting emissions from automobiles and reducing the use of industrial fossil fuels such as coal.
Now, the Trump administration is degrading the EPA and rolling back regulations on emissions. It may not be a coincidence the highest Air Quality indices in the last five years in this region were reached in 2018.
The laws and regulations Trump calls restrictive and unfair are now viewed by most people as wisdom. If we are to cope with life on a rapidly heating Earth, delaying the battle against rising ozone levels is not an option. Maybe then we can breathe a little bit easier.