Projected population increases and soaring vehicle traffic will mandate more intensified efforts to deal with air pollution problems in the Salt Lake metropolitan area, a state official said Saturday.
F. Burnell Cordner, director of the State Health Department's Bureau of Air Quality, addressed the Utah Federation of Democratic Women convention in the Doubletree Hotel."Saving the World" was the theme. Diane Davidson, a well-known University of Utah biologist with expertise on tropical rain forests, and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, also were speakers.
A trained physicist who was a meteorologist for the Air Force, Cordner discussed ozone and other global warming issues and presented slides showing the status of air quality in Utah.
Cordner said the quality of Utah air has been improving, but if something isn't done air pollution problems will become more severe. He said frequent weather inversions compound the problem.
"Generally, on all the particulates that we regulate there is a downward trend along the Wasatch Front, but the big issue now in Salt Lake and Utah counties is the very tiny particulates (known as PM10) - particulates that are 10 microns or smaller in diameter. A standard was developed because those particulates get into and lodge in the respiratory system. They are not exhaled as are larger particulates," Cordner said.
Regarding global warming, Cordner said the greenhouse effect is now accepted by the world's senior scientists, some of whom say people in the 1990s will notice more hot summers than normal. "Perhaps the most serious aspect of this issue is the virtual certainty that some warming has already been assured due to past emissions of air pollutants regardless of future control measures," Cordner said.
A former Guggenheim fellow in Australia, Central and South America and Asia, Davidson said rain forests cover about 7 percent of the earth but contain half the world's species of plants and animals.
"These are often very closely linked to one another, so there's a domino effect. If one species becomes extinct, it could (easily affect) . . . closely interacting populations," she said in an interview.
Davidson said about 50 percent of the world's rain forests are already cut or burned down. About 2 percent of the remaining forests are disappearing every year, and the rate is increasing as population densities increase.
Rain forests help keep carbon dioxide levels low. As forests are cut, burned or destroyed in other ways, carbon dioxide levels are added to the atmosphere, contributing to climate warming.
Davidson said rain forests support life for monkeys, apes and other animals needed for medical and other research and help supply fresh water for areas such as the Panama Canal.
She likened eliminating rain forests to burning all the books in a library.
"But it is worse with the rain forests because as we kill species we are wiping out our library of genes. Each species has its own particular genetic makeup that could have value to human beings. As we cut the forests we are eliminating this library of genes, and it cannot be replaced except on a scale of millions of years."
In a statement released before the conference, Owens said threats to the integrity of the global environment are very apparent. Inaction will result in "terrible consequences; some of which will be experienced here in Utah."