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President Obama's Giant Step to Give Our Kids a Healthier, Low-Carbon Future

Kim Knowlton

Posted July 1, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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President Obama is taking a giant step to limit heat-trapping carbon pollution from its largest U.S. source: new and existing power plants. The President’s newly-announced climate action plan and a summary are here.

Heat-trapping carbon pollution causes climate change. Climate change fuels extreme heat, among other effects. A new NRDC webtool lets you see how vulnerable your community is locally to the effects of climate change.

And the kind of searing heat that California and the Southwest are enduring this week isn’t an inconvenience, it kills.

It sends thousands of people to emergency rooms, it puts people in hospitals.  Heat waves mean billions in health costs – a 2006 California heat wave cost an estimated $5.3 billion, was associated with 655 deaths, sent 16,000 people to emergency rooms, sent 1,200 into hospital beds.

We don’t yet know the toll of the 2013 heat wave on California, and hope that temperatures drop soon. But we need to do everything we can to limit the heat-trapping carbon pollution that’s fueling climate change and intensifying these kind of heat waves. These are records we cannot afford to keep breaking.

Extreme heat like this, along with the drought conditions that remain across much of the West and Midwest, also intensify wildfire risks. And wildfires rage across the West this year, as they did in 2012. Nineteen firefighters tragically lost their lives in Arizona Sunday.

Astonishingly, there have not been federal limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can dump into our air. Now, just as we've used the Clean Air Act to reduce the levels of sulfur, soot and other pollutants in our air, we need to put safeguards in place to protect our health and our children’s from climate-related effects. These range heat and drought and wildfires to rainstorms and flooding. Climate change fueling these extremes,for many people, is making summer a season of insecurity and disruption.

The plan the President laid out on June 25th shows how, as a nation, we can take a giant step to address the climate chaos and weather extremes that threaten us all: cut carbon pollution at its source. Power plants account for about 40 percent of our national carbon footprint, and are our country's single largest source of the carbon pollution that drives climate change.

Climate change-related events are costing Americans all across the nation billions in health-related costs – costs we want to avoid – as well as helping people avoid the pain, suffering and lessened quality of life from extreme weather and other events.

So the President’s action to reduce greenhouse gases is some of the best news I’ve heard in a long time.

It’s a giant step that will also promote training and climate resilience in the health sector nationwide, train health professionals and community leaders to connect the dots between climate change and health and become better prepared, and encourage hospitals to become centers of preparedness and climate resilience. The President’s proposal will help limit the effects of climate change for our kids and grandchildren, and create healthier, more secure communities.

And because the US is still among the top global producers of heat-trapping carbon pollution, President Obama’s announcement is a giant step for people everywhere struggling to prepare and cope with the effects of climate change.

Thank you, President Obama, for taking that giant step in the right direction.

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Comments

Mona SarfatyJul 6 2013 04:58 PM

Kim,
I am trying to reach you to talk about a way forward to spread the important information you are making available here and stimulate far more research to track, understand, predict, and model the development of health effects in these categories. Could you call me? I have sent you an email but have not heard back. Thx. Mona Sarfaty 240-338-7255

KimJul 7 2013 01:15 PM

Thanks, Mona, for your interest and your comment. Tracking climate-health effects as they happen is really important, along with more research to understand how to better project what the future may bring, and how we can prepare.

Comments are closed for this post.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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