Clean-air conference looks at pollution, global warming

More than 350 environmentalists, government activists, auto industry representatives and academic leaders from across the U.S. and several other countries are participating in the 16th annual Mobile Source/Clean Air conference this week (Sept. 19-22) in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

"This conference examines the many aspects of the growing vehicle emissions problem," said Brigit Wolff, director of the conference sponsor, the National Center for Vehicle Emissions Control and Safety (NCVECS). "It is an open forum where environmentalists talk with auto industry representatives and policy makers discuss implementation with technicians. Everyone is interested in creating solutions through improvements in programs, laws and technology."

Highlights of the gathering have been a panel discussion on international clean air solutions and an evaluation of current vehicle inspection and maintenance programs.

"Global warming is a big concern," said conference presenter, Bill Parton, Professor Emeritus and senior research scientist at Colorado State University's Natural Resource Ecology Lab. A meteorologist, Parton works with computer models, looking at the impact of C02 on climate changes.

According to Parton, car emissions contribute substantially to C02 gasses, which are the primary cause of global warming. "The mean air temperature has been consistently getting warmer over the last 150 years," he said. "Our data, dating back to l950, supports the concept of global warming. We are looking at long-term trends, and our concern is not what's already happened, but we are looking at C02 levels doubling over the next 100 years if the present trends continue."

The problem, Parton believes, is the multitude of unknowns swimming around in global warming. "We just don't know what will happen," he said. "If the ice caps melt, the sea level will raise substantially causing flooding and more severe hurricane damage." He said warmer climates will cause lusher grasslands and, conversely, the drought in this region can be directly related to global warming. "The climate system is in a delicate balance. If we don't do something about the global warming problem now, we will stress our climate system and it will become too late. We need to start now to reverse it."

Parton said there are many things individuals can do to turn the warming trend around. "Use less fuel, plan smart trips, drive more energy-efficient cars, use better insulation in houses and live in more energy-efficient homes. There are a lot of alternative energy sources that work. More people doing effective things over the long term will make a difference," he said.

The conference is designed to build a partnership among groups with a common commitment to finding solutions to air quality problems. Participants have discussed the most recent developments in vehicle emissions and air quality, with topics ranging from industry issues, policies and regulations, to current technology and program development.

Discussion topics this week have included evaporative emissions, the human response to on-board diagnostics, non-road sources of fuel emissions, air pollution abatement with hypercar technology, positive and negative effects of global warming, and the C3 student outreach program: The Cars, Cultures and Cures Project to Cleaner Air. The conference has also included case studies, demonstrations and debates.

NCVECS, a research training center in the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University. The Center was established in 1976 and is the nation's only university-based center devoted exclusively to the study of light-duty vehicle emissions control.

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