Last year, President Trump tweeted that America has the cleanest air in the world. He’s partly right. Since 1980, the US has indeed reduced levels of the main air pollutants by 68% — mostly since regulations like the Clean Air Act and CAFE standards began targeting air pollution in earnest. But this isn’t a solved problem.
Annual deaths from car accidents are around 44,000; from homicides, 20,000; from air pollution, 90,000. Air pollution matters, and it might even be a better motivator to enact strong energy policy than climate change.
In addition to the health benefits, a public health framework points to a political window for action. Climate is global; air pollution is local. Communities with air quality issues tend to care about and want action on those issues, even if they are not engaged in other environmental issues.
As Trump said, we do have some of the cleanest air in the world. But we must not lose sight of the remaining ground to gain on air pollution.