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Bay Area air district issues first Winter Spare the Air Alert for Friday

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The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is issuing the winter season's first Spare the Air Alert for Friday, calling on people in Napa County and elsewhere in the region to abstain from burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel in fireplaces or outdoors.

Though a raging fire in the fireplace can make for a cozy holiday weekend, the smoke from them can cause unhealthy air quality, the air district said. High pressure over Northern California will act like a lid, trapping smoke at ground level. Offshore winds may also transport air pollution from the Central Valley into the Bay Area.

But burning fuels on a Spare the Air day is not just discouraged, it's also illegal, though people who rely on wood stoves or fireplaces as their only source of heat are permitted use them. However, such households must use Environmental Protection Agency-certified or pellet-fueled devices that are registered with the air district. Open-hearth fireplaces no longer qualify for exemptions, district officials said.

"Residents can help protect the respiratory health of their families and communities by refraining from wood burning — the number one source of wintertime air pollution in the Bay Area," said Sharon Landers, interim executive officer of the air quality district.

In San Francisco, the National Park Service has also prohibited recreational beach fires at Ocean Beach and in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area through the end of February.

Those found violating Spare the Air orders will be asked to take a wood smoke awareness course; those who do not partake in that education will be given a $100 ticket. People with second violations are subject to a $500 ticket, with the ticket amount increasing for any further violations.

Carbon dioxide is light and invisible, but the amount put in the air by the world's nations through the burning of coal, oil and gas and the making of cement adds up to massive numbers. Since 1959, the world has spewed 1.55 trillion tons (1.41 trillion metric tons) of carbon dioxide, according to Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists who track emissions and publish in peer review scientific journals. In 2020, the last year for full national data, China spewed more than 11.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide (more than 10.6 billion metric tons), which is 30.6% of the globe's carbon dioxide emissions and more than twice as much carbon pollution as the United States which was the next highest emitter at 13.5%, scientists calculated. The European Union, when lumped together, comes in third at 7.5% followed by India's 7%. There are a few important caveats to understanding who is responsible for global emissions. The first is the amount of carbon emitted per person. "The developing countries, India and China, even though they're emitting a lot, they have very big population," said John Miller, meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "So on a per capita basis, their emissions aren't quite as large as they would seem." Scientists say historic emissions also must be taken into consideration

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