Monthly Archives: November 2011

New Report on Climate Change Says Wilder Weather is Headed Our Way

A new report by some the world’s top researchers confirms that climate change will make the extreme weather we’ve seen recently even worse in the future.

The report was released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It synthesizes two years work from 100 experts who analyze data from all over the world.

Their conclusion: climate change is bringing us more extreme weather, and it’s likely to get worse and have greater negative impacts over the next century.

Here’s what EDF’s Chief Scientist, Steve Hamburg, had to say today:

We’ve all been experiencing these dangerous storms and heat waves, and this report provides strong evidence of the links between impacts of dangerous weather and climate change. Now we need to start using this data to find ways to protect ourselves and our communities.

Here are some of the highlights of the report – or lowlights as the case may be:

Here in the United States, we’re likely to see

  • Higher temperatures and more hot days through the next century (Record-breaking heat that would have been a once-in-20-year high are likely to become a one-in-two-year event)
  • More frequent and heavier rains, especially in winter
  • Stronger hurricanes that will do more damage
  • Increased droughts, especially in the center of the country
  • Higher sea levels, which means more coastal erosion and other damage
  • All these changes will affect our agriculture, water supplies, health – even tourism. And all that, in turn, will affect our economy.

That’s more bad news on top of an extremely unpleasant year of bad weather. America suffered through a number of extreme weather events, including these compiled by Climate Central:

  • The Groundhog Day Blizzard blanketed 22 states and crippled travel. The deadly blizzard was one of Chicago’s top five snowstorms on record.
  • Some of the worst flooding in history hit us in the spring, from the Upper Midwest all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. More than three times the normal spring rainfall caused the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers to overflow. Flooding in Minot, North Dakota damaged 4,000 homes and forced 11,000 to evacuate. More than a million acres of farmland flooded in Missouri and Arkansas.
  • Hurricane Irene became the first hurricane to make landfall in New Jersey in 100 years, and inundated people from Virginia all the way north to Vermont. Tropical Storm Lee following right behind Irene. Their combined rainfalls led to damaging floods in the East.
  • Record-setting rainfalls were recorded across the country. August 2011 was the all-time rainiest month in New York City, Newark and Philadelphia; 2011 will be the rainiest year ever in Cleveland, Scranton, Binghamton and Harrisburg. 14 places in Wyoming and Montana set precipitation records in May, and seven places set new all-time records for the single rainiest day ever.
  • Deadly tornado outbreaks caused damage across the Southeast. 748 twisters touched down across the South in April, the most ever recorded in a single month. The EF-5 tornado that destroyed Joplin, Missouri was America’s deadliest single tornado since modern record-keeping started in 1950.
  • Extreme heat across the region had people sweltering. Texas had the hottest summer for any state in U.S. history, going back to when modern records were first kept in 1895. New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado had their hottest summers on record — as did Tallahassee, Florida and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Wichita Falls, Texas had 100 days when the temperature was more than 100 degrees; Austin had 67 days over 100 degrees. Washington D.C. hit an all-time record high of 105 degrees on July 22.
  • Severe droughts caused massive damage in the Southwest. Texas had the worst one-year drought on record.
  • Wildfires — which are linked to droughts –burned across the West. 3.5 million acres burned in Texas — the state’s worst wildfire season ever. 156,000 acres burned in New Mexico and 538,000 in Arizona.
Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Science / Read 4 Responses

Clean Air Act Rules Will Save U.S. $82 Billion on Health Care

The Clean Air Act was originally designed to save lives, protect public health and safeguard the environment – and it has been a clear success story on those fronts.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own analyses show that Clean Air Act rules yield hundreds of billions of dollars in economic benefits. These include the value of avoided premature mortality, negative health impacts, lost worker productivity due to illness, and environmental improvements such as increased visibility and agricultural productivity.

Now EDF and Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) have released a new report that takes a closer look at one segment of those benefits.

Our new analysis [PDF] finds that four major rules of the Clean Air Act will yield more than $82 billion in Medicare, Medicaid and other health care savings for America through 2021.

The report is called Saving Lives and Reducing Health Care Costs: How Clean Air Rules Benefit the Nation [PDF].

It looks at four new rules recently proposed or finalized by EPA:

Those four rules are expected to lower emissions rates of a number of air pollutants, including mercury, arsenic, dioxins, acid gases, smog, and soot.

Reducing levels of those dangerous substances will, in turn, reduce rates of premature mortality, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, respiratory hospital admissions, and emergency room visits related to asthma.

That, in turn, will result in health care savings of $82 billion, including;

  • $44.6 billion in Medicare and federal-level health care savings
  • $2.8 billion in state-level Medicaid and other state and local savings
  • $8.3 billion in out-of-pocket individual savings
  • $24.7 billion in private insurance savings

Our report is one more piece of evidence that clean air rules are a good investment for America. We can save lives, protect public health, and save billions of taxpayer dollars that are currently being spent by programs like Medicare to treat pollution-related illnesses.

Our report also shows that the polluter-led attempts to roll back clean air rules would not reduce costs, but rather shift costs from polluters onto the American people.

Our new report also includes a second analysis of health care savings expected from the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, which finds implementation of these programs could yield over $612 billion between 2000 and 2020 in reduced Medicare, Medicaid, out-of-pocket and private insurance spending.

You can read the full report here [PDF].

Posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Health, News / Tagged | Comments are closed

EDF Applauds New Fuel Efficiency and Emissions Standards for Cars and Trucks

America has driven a little bit further down the road toward clean and fuel efficient cars.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation just announced their joint proposal to set new, stronger fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks – for model years 2017 to 2025.

EDF’s Fred Krupp said the announcement:

 … is more good news for American consumers, auto manufacturers, public health and the environment. By 2025 we’ll have cars that on average get more than 54 miles to the gallon, save their owners more than $8,000 in fuel costs, save our country more than two million barrels of oil a day, and drastically reduce the carbon dioxide pollution in our air.

This is the second phase of setting new fuel efficiency standards for cars. The Administration already set standards for model year 2012 to 2016 cars, which will reach an average of 35.5 miles to the gallon.

They also set new standards for trucks and buses. (Our experts have written about all of this before, of course – most recently here)

But the newly proposed standards are the biggest step forward yet. Together with the earlier improvements, they will:

  • Save Americans a total of $1.7 trillion in national fuel savings over the life of the program.
  • Reduce our oil consumption by an amount more than our 2010 oil imports from the entire Persian Gulf, by the year 2025
  • Reduce our carbon dioxide pollution, over the life of the program, by the equivalent to the emissions from the entire United States in 2010

You can get a lot more details, and a illustrative graph, on our new fact sheet.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Comments are closed

More Evidence That the Benefits of EPA Rules Vastly Outweigh the Costs

Yet another study is confirming what we’ve known for quite some time — the benefits of EPA’s clean air rules vastly outweigh the costs.

An analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reinforces what other studies have told us time and time again: clean air is a great economic investment.

Unfortunately, that fact is often lost in the unfounded attacks on EPA that have gotten so much attention lately, in the media and even in Congress.

EPI’s analysis examines the combined effect of EPA rules that have already been finalized under the Obama Administration, as well as those currently in the proposal stage. It finds that:

The dollar value of the benefits of the major rules finalized or proposed by the EPA so far during the Obama administration exceeds the rules’ costs by an exceptionally wide margin. Health benefits in terms of lives saved and illnesses avoided will be enormous.

Of course, the most important benefits of clean air are those related to human health. Just three of these rules (Cross-State Air Pollution (CSAPR), Mercury and Air Toxics, and Boiler MACT) are estimated to save up to 57,500 lives a year.

Those lives saved, plus illnesses avoided and other environmental improvements translate to enormous economic benefits:

  • Setting aside CSAPR, the combined annual benefits from all final major rules exceed their costs by $10 billion to $95 billion a year. The estimated benefit-to-cost ratios for those final rules range from 2-to-1 to 20-to-1.
  • The net benefits from CSAPR range from $112 billion to $289 billion a year.
  • The combined annual benefits from three major proposed rules exceed their costs by $62 billion to $188 billion a yearThe estimated benefit-to-cost ratios for those proposed rules range from 6-to-1 to 15-to-1

The results are even more striking in chart form:

Benefits and costs of EPA rules

(For more details on EPI’s analysis, see our new fact sheet.)

EPI has also shown, in a previous analysis, that EPA clean air rules can also have a positive impact on overall employment – including 28,000 to 158,000 jobs from the Mercury and Air Toxics rule for power plants alone.   

In fact, Josh Bivens of EPI recently testified before the U.S. House of Representatives on the Mercury and Air Toxics rule for power plants. He said:

Calls to delay implementation of the rule based on vague appeals to wider economic weakness have the case entirely backward – there is no better time than now, from a job-creation perspective, to move forward with these rules. 

It’s time for everyone – and especially Congress — to recognize that EPA rules are not only good for our health, but also our economy.

(For more on how cleaner air can save lives, improve health, and help our economy, see the following previous EDF blog posts:  “Thank You, EPA,” “The Clean Air Act Amendments: Good for Our Health AND Our Economy,” and “Newsflash: Clean Air Act saves lives, boosts GDP.”)

Posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, News, Policy / Comments are closed

A Great Day for Clean Air

Today, a bipartisan majority in the U. S. Senate voted down Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) dirty air resolution, which would have allowed upwind states to dump air pollution on their neighbors.

The vote was 41 to 56 against the resolution.

Thanks to this vote, the Environmental Protection Agency will keep its authority to enforce the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSPAR), which will save up to 34,000 lives each year.

Here’s what EDF’s Fred Krupp had to say:

Today, the U.S. Senate did the right thing and defeated a measure that would have put American lives and health at risk. We appreciate the stand taken by those Senators who voted against S.J. Res. 27.

Sen. Rand Paul’s resolution would have blocked the long-overdue Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which protects American families from the smokestack pollution that drifts across state lines and causes thousands of premature deaths each year. Sen. Paul’s effort to undermine our clean air laws was misguided and dangerous.

Unfortunately, the attacks against our clean air laws continue in spite of today’s victory. In fact, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Dan Coats (R-IN) have already introduced other legislation to undermine the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and another critical protection, the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule for power plants.

We need our Senators to continue to fight for clean air and public health, and defeat any and all legislation that would leave us vulnerable to mercury emissions and other dangerous air pollution.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy / Comments are closed

A Bad Neighbor Bill Hits the Senate Floor

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will take his “Bad Neighbor” bill to the Senate floor tomorrow morning.

Sen. Paul’s bill (S.J. Res. 27) would undo the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule – also known as the “Good Neighbor” rule.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSPAR) would protect downwind states from getting their neighbors’ air pollution dumped on them. It could save up to 34,000 lives a year – if it’s not stopped by Sen. Paul’s bill.

EDF President Fred Krupp said this about Sen. Paul’s decision to push his anti-clean-air measure in the Senate:

Senator Paul’s attempt to block the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule takes anti-government ideology to an extreme.  His bill would stop a long-overdue rule to protect American families from smokestack pollution that drifts across state lines — and causes thousands of premature deaths each year.  If polluters are allowed to continue dumping their pollution in neighboring states, we will all be in serious trouble.

Of course, EDF is not the only group that’s opposed to Sen. Paul’s measure. A group of more than a dozen of America’s leading health organizations sent a letter to the Senate urging them to support CSPAR.

We’ve posted about CSPAR — and Rand Paul’s misguided attempts to undo it – before, but if you want to know more about the issue, check out our fact sheet.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Health, News, Policy / Read 1 Response