Posted by: McCarty Hatfield on Oct 21, 2013
USU Professor Named to Governor's Clean Air Action Team
He is already a professor in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, a state climatologist and the director of the Utah Climate Center, and now Robert Gillies will also be a climate expert on Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s Clean Air Action Team.
The team, announced by Herbert on October 15, consists of 38 experts in areas such as industry, healthcare, government and education who will meet 10 times over the next year in order to come up with ways to address Utah’s growing air pollution problem.
With expertise in climatology of the Intermountain West, Gillies is part of the panel’s academic team and will provide recommendations on how to keep the air clean so as not to impair health, he said.
“The big issue is that this is really affecting the quality of life for many Utahns,” said Gillies.
He explained that the earth naturally gives off its own gasses but in the winter, those gasses get trapped because of valley-shaped locations and very little mixing in the atmosphere.
“So if the valley had no human being in it, you’d still get inversions,” he said.
However, people emit other gasses by driving their cars or heating their houses, for example, and worsen the problem. These gasses can also get trapped and create tiny particles of pollution that remain in the air known as Particulate Matter 2.5. These particles can get into the body’s bloodstream and potentially take five years off of one’s life, Gillies said.
As a first step toward resolution, CAAT will bring different facets together and educate each one as to what they can do. Perhaps businesses and industry will come forward with a commitment to cut their emissions by a certain amount, Gillies said. Maybe then people will follow in doing their part and cut their own emissions by carpooling, riding bikes and turning off idling cars, he added.
“My hope is, and the success of the board will be, that under persistent inversion events, we do indeed keep the values of PM 2.5 from becoming unhealthy,” Gillies said. “That would define success, true success.”
Gillies noted that he is excited to be working with the team and said, “It’s nice to be asked and recognized for your expertise. It’s nice to be recognized that you have a role to play.”
In addition to his participation on the CAAT, Gillies was also recently asked to be on another Governor’s board for water conservation. However, the details of this panel are still being developed.