Philly air pollution hearing tonight

This afternoon, the state sent out an air alert. Tomorrow, the forecast is for unhealthy levels of ozone in the region, and moderate levels of particulates.

I know plenty of people with asthma and other respiratory ailments, and there something very sad about having to think that they might be having difficulties breathing because of air pollution. Or that they might have to stay inside.

Tonight, Philadelphia councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown is having a citizen hearing to learn more about air pollution, the way it affects people, and the potential benefit of proposed national standards, including one for carbon dioxide, which exacerbates global warming.

Local officials, public health experts will weigh in with their expertise. Religious leaders also will testify -- and their theme has been one of respect for life. Of, should we say, life and breath.

The councilwoman also hopes to hear from regular people who can talk about how pollution affects the life and others in the community.

Just now, I managed to catch up to Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist in the health program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, as she was headed into the hearing.

What brought her here from New York, where she's based?

Testifying at events like this, she said, "is a historic opportunity for me, and people like me, to do something really positive." She said the EPA's proposed limit on carbon pollution "is  great news for health. It's really going to be this milestone."

She wrote about it recently in this blog post.

Knowlton and other scientists anticipate that warming temperatures will result in more smog -- the lung-seaering stuff that forms when emissions from auto engines and other sources of fuel combustion react with heat and sunlight. She mentioned that 260,000 children in Pennsylvania have asthma, and she wants to do everything she can to make sure they can breathe better and get outdoor exercise more safely.

Climate change also is expected to fuel extreme weather events, making them more frequent, more intensive and longer-lasting. After last summer, she noted, Pennsylvania doesn't have to be told about the effects of extreme rainfall and flooding.

She and some other researchers recently tried to tally the health costs associated with such events -- in injuries, say, or illness -- and came up with figures that staggered even here. "Billions, with a B, of dollars in health costs related to these health events are not getting factored into our thinking when we talk about cost of climate change," she said.

Tonight's hearing is co-sponsored by PennEnvironment, the Clean Air Council, Sierra Club, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, PennFuture and PA Interfaith Power And Light.