DENVER — Denver’s hazy skyline this summer has managed to become a normal sight.
Players running on the basketball court in Washington Park said they could feel the impact of the poor air quality Tuesday.
“I get lightheaded and I feel more dehydrated than the days when the air quality is a lot better,” Donte Stephenson said.
Stepehnson has asthma, something he says has gotten worse along with the air quality.
“I have had to keep my inhaler with me. I usually don’t have to keep it on me unless I am doing physical activity,” Stephenson said.
The basketball court in Wash Park is a small example of what’s being felt across the Front Range.
“For example, our ozone problem in Colorado up until 2019 or, you know, summer ozone issues were actually getting progressively better and better, slowly but progressively. And that completely turned around last year and has significantly gotten even worse this year,” said associate professor and researcher at National Jewish Health, Dr. James Crooks.
Crooks says part of the reason is the wildfire smoke from the western U.S., but bad air quality is only one piece of a greater problem if climate change isn’t addressed.
“It will be drying out the West and causing potentially even more severe water shocks than we've had for people living on the Eastern U.S.. They'll have to deal with stronger hurricanes. I mean, every August for the rest of this century is going to be a climate roulette,” Crooks said.
It's these concerns that drew the attention of more than 200 medical journals to issue a joint statement urging world leaders to make policy decisions that cut back on emissions. If not, they warn of “catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse."
“Once we can get past COVID, it will be the number one public health crisis and probably will remain that way for the rest of the century,” Crooks said.
Crooks says climate change action is noticeable quickly in terms of better health.
His and many others' hope is that 2021 is the year the world changes course so everyone is able to enjoy life outdoors.