Clean Air -- California's Success and Future Challenges

This page last reviewed September 19, 2008

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Speaking Notes Slide 1

Clean Air--California's Successes and Future Challenges

I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak. I have a simple request for everyone. I would like all of you to take a nice, deep breath. Breathe in . . . (Pause for deep breath.) Are you feeling better? You should -- if you had taken a similar breath 25 years ago -- and I gather most of you were breathing then -- in some parts of California you would have inhaled:

  • 30 percent more ground-level ozone than today (O3),
  • 100 percent more -- twice as much -- carbon monoxide as today (CO),
  • 300 percent more-- four times as much -- sulfur dioxide (SO2),
  • 3,400 percent more -- that is 35 times as much -- lead (Pb).

And if those numbers sound spectacular, consider these: Over the same 25 years, California’s population has increased by 12 million, the number of cars has doubled, and the total vehicle miles those cars have traveled has increased two and a half times.

The reason why the air you’re breathing at this moment is a lot cleaner than 25 years ago is because the people of California have insisted that government act, and government has in turn partnered with industry, with public-interest groups, and with the academic world to find solutions to protect public health caused by air pollution. While we have a lot of work still to do, every now and then it is important to step back and take stock of whatever endeavor we are engaged in -- and in this case, there really is a story of remarkable progress. Our work is not finished and we must not relax, for too many Californians still breathe unhealthy air, and we are still an attractive place to live. But we should celebrate with our partners the progress we’ve made -- even as we wrestle with the challenges yet ahead.

Today, I am going to give you a little background and history of this success story still in progress, identify special milestones, and discuss what we all need to do to meet the challenges of the future.

First, let’s talk about air pollution ...