UC Riverside fights pollution with new air quality study

Claire Grimes | Banner | Daily traffic on the CA-91 freeway can contribute to poor air quality.

Riverside is paving the way toward improving the environment.

University of California Riverside’s latest project is a study of the environmental impacts of goods movement (shipping) in Inland Southern California  The California Attorney General’s Office Automobile Emissions Research and Technology Fund has granted UCR $2 million to conduct this research.

This study consists of tracking diesel emissions from freight-related sources, such as diesel trucks that are concentrated around ports, rail yards and warehouses. Diesel trucks are necessary for the process of goods movement.

Holly Ober, senior public information officer at UCR explains where the Automobile Emissions Research and Technology Fund got money for their research, including money granted to UCR in a press
release.

“The money comes from the Attorney General’s Automobile Emissions Research and Technology Fund, established in 2016 through a consent decree in People of the State of California v. Volkswagen AG,” Ober said “In that case, California sued Volkswagen for using ‘defeat devices’ that made cars look like they produced far fewer emissions when tested than they did.”

Jacob Lanphere, associate professor of environmental science, discusses how shipping contributes to air pollution.

“Most of our purchases are coming from outside the United States. A lot of materials are shipped overseas, typically from China, and gets packed inside a steel shipping container, which then goes onto a marine vessel, across the ocean, and waits in Long Beach or Seattle port. Once the containers are removed from the vessel, the containers are placed on a tractor or a large diesel truck, and from there it could go on a train, and so forth until the destination is reached.”

“Each leg along the journey is contributing to global emissions. Carbon dioxide, sulfur, particulate matters, etc.”

According to Oceana Europe, shipping pollution is responsible for 3 percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the world, with the percentage still growing.

If shipping were a country, it would be the sixth-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. This large amount of air pollution caused by shipping goods has evident effects., such as an increase in health burdens such as asthma. 

The Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology lead this project at UCR. This project is part of the OMEGA Initiative: Objective Measurement of Emissions from Goods Movement and Impacts on Air Quality.

The goal of this study is to  target the source of the pollution in hopes of lessening the impacts locally.

Even though research is still in process, there are ways in which changes can already be made to reduce pollution.

“Large companies, like Amazon, are already spending significant numbers of investment into electric vehicles to reduce emissions” Lanphere adds.

“Carpooling is always a great option to increase our fuel efficiency,” Callie Totaro, senior environmental science major, advises.

“Also, paying attention to the Spare the Air and Clean Air days — days in which levels of ground-level ozone are predicted to exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s federal health-based standard — and limiting activity on those days is important. As for shipping, it is better to buy something that was made or grown locally and traveled a relatively short distance rather than buy something that has to be shipped.”

Elizabeth Roe, freshman criminal justice major, agreed.

“I didn’t bring a car to campus and that saves a lot of gas a year,” Roe said. “If you can, walk or bike as much as possible. It’s not only cheaper, it also helps save on pollution.”

Results from UCR’s study will be discussed in the coming years. Until then, make smart choices and let’s help the environment one local shop at a time.

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