Climate 411

How the President Can Address Climate Change Right Now

When Foreign Policy magazine decided to run a series on “10 problems Obama could solve right now,” they turned to EDF’s Gernot Wagner.

His contribution: a list of ways the President can address climate change — without Congressional approval.

Gernot acknowledges that:

“President Obama isn’t going to halt the rise of the oceans in his second term.”

But he outlines steps the President can take right now.

At the top of his list:

 “The president can start by setting an example in his own house, quite literally. Based on Executive Order 13514, signed in October 2009, Obama established a 28 percent emissions-reduction goal for the federal government by 2020. While working toward this goal, the administration should take the opportunity to implement a tried-and-true market approach: Follow the lead of some big corporations like Microsoft and make each part of the government financially accountable for its greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon dioxide — at least the roughly $20 per ton established by the federal government’s own interagency working group as the single best value. That would allow the government to meet its overall target the most cost-effective way possible”.

Other key ideas:

  • Use existing legal authority under the tried-and-true Clean Air Act to cut power plant pollution, both from new and existing sources.
  • Build on the success of strengthening greenhouse gas and fuel-economy standards for cars and extend them to heavy and medium-duty vehicles, ranging from 18-wheelers to commercial delivery trucks.
  • Get methane leakage under control. Natural gas can have half the climate impact of coal, with the emphasis on “can.” Methane leakage could actually make it worse, and President Obama has the power to ensure that’s not the case.

Read more in Foreign Policy’s article.

Posted in News, Policy / Read 1 Response

The Costs Of Particulate Matter To American Health

This blog post was written by Dr. Bonnie New, former Director of Health Professionals for Clean Air.

Physicians treating patients with respiratory symptoms look for underlying causes or aggravators, and that includes exposure to air pollution.

If that pollution involves particulate matter – also known as soot – their concerns intensify, because of its well-known negative health impacts.

Many studies demonstrate associations between short- and long-term exposures to fine particle air pollution (PM2.5) and cardiopulmonary disease and mortality.

PM2.5 exposure is also associated with:

  • endocrine and reproductive dysfunction, including pre-term and low birth-weight babies;
  • increases in lung cancer;
  • increases in the development of vascular disease; and
  • increases in diabetes mortality.

In addition to aggravating existing asthma and other lung diseases, PM2.5 has been linked to retarded lung growth and reduced lung function in children, and even with de novo (newly occurring) development of respiratory problems in infants and children. Research also shows that reductions in PM2.5 are associated with reductions in adverse health effects and improved life expectancy.

It’s important to state here that currently, there is no identified level of PM2.5 that is known to not make people sick.

The groups most susceptible to adverse health effects from PM2.5 are infants, children, teens, the elderly, and those with existing lung and cardiovascular problems. Taken together, this represents almost half of the U.S. population.

Impacts to the Economy

When we see the large impacts of pollution on health, it’s impossible not to notice the financial impacts as well.

The economic impact of preventable illness and death related to soot pollution in the U.S. is staggering, estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars every year. The functional impact on the lives of those affected and their families is also dramatic.

As doctors, we deal with not only the challenges of diagnosis and treatment, but with the sadness, frustration and pain of people who can not live normal lives and children who can not enjoy just being kids.

It raises anger in physicians to hear from those opposing health-based air quality regulations on the basis that such regulations would be “too costly”. It’s not like the costs are avoided if regulations are not put into place. The costs are simply shifted to our patients, and to the health care system. The costs are paid for in lives impaired and lives lost, in kids who can’t run and play, in increasing hospitalizations and people missing work and school because they’re sick.

Shifting costs like this from polluters to the general public makes for healthy business profits, but sick and unhappy people. As patient advocates, doctors have good reason to be angry. The public, those current and future patients and families, do too.

Posted in Health / Comments are closed

EDF’s Business-Friendly Suggestions for Fighting Climate Change

We’ve been hearing the same question a lot lately – what should President Obama do in his second term to fight climate change?  

In today’s online Harvard Business Review, EDF’s Eric Pooley has some thoughts on that subject. He’s laid out a five-point plan to help us address climate change.

Those points range:

[F]rom no-brainer ideas almost everyone can agree on to ambitious items that would require Congressional action

And they all have one thing in common – they are business friendly.

As Eric puts it: 

It is worth remembering that strong business support helped secure passage of the House climate bill in 2009, and though that effort failed in the Senate, no serious legislation can move without the backing of men and women in the engine room of the American economy. To be politically viable, climate solutions must be economically sustainable.

Here’s the (very) short version of Eric’s plan:

  • Feed the conversation
  • Reduce climate accelerants
  • Start a clean energy race
  • Use the Clean Air Act
  • Put a price on carbon

If you’d like to read the whole plan, you can find it here: A Business-Friendly Climate Agenda for Obama’s Second Term

Posted in Climate Change Legislation, Economics, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy / Comments are closed

Our Newest Clean Air Ally – Actress Julianne Moore

Those of us following the debate over clean air regulations are used to hearing frequent comments from key players – power plant executives, politicians, environmentalists, doctors.

But every once in a while, we get a truly original point of view. 

Like today – in this animated video from actress Julianne Moore.

Moore taped the video for Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF), a nonpartisan group of moms (and dads, and grandparents, and others) who want cleaner and healthier air for their kids.  

Moore is a well-known actress, children’s book author, and activist for a variety of children’s causes. She narrates the new video with the help of the cartoon-character stars of her Freckleface Strawberry books.

In a blog post on the MCAF website, Moore writes:

Sometimes being a good mom means being an active citizen. That’s why I joined Moms Clean Air Force. Moms are banding together. We are making our voices stronger. We are fighting for our children. Together, we are telling politicians to protect our right to clean air.

Moms Clean Air Force was launched last summer and now has almost 50,000 members. (EDF has worked with them from the beginning).

Since the launch, MCAF has gotten other celebrities – including Blythe Danner, Laila Ali, and Jessica Capshaw – to join. Danner and actresses Maya Rudolph and Christina Applegate have also taped video for the group.

Posted in Clean Air Act, News, Partners for Change / Comments are closed

Support for EPA from Doctors and Scientists

You’ve probably seen a lot of nasty attacks against EPA in media report lately. You are not alone.

As EDF’s Susanne Brooks writes in our Market Forces blog:

Given that EPA is in the midst of finalizing some of the most critical regulation protecting American human health from poisonous air pollution, one might think that a simple ‘thank you’ might be in order. Instead, EPA is facing unfounded attacks from several angles.

Susanne’s blog post cites some “egregious” examples of people who refuse to believe that air pollution is bad for your health — including one newspaper columnist who recently demanded that EPA “show him the bodies” of air pollution victims.

Susanne then compiles a list of responses from leaders in the scientific community. Those responses provide powerful evidence to support EPA’s efforts to protect our air.

The most compelling statement may be from Lynn Goldman, Dean and Professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and a member of EDF’s Board of Trustees. Susanne writes:

She refers to the family members who can actually point to the bodies of loved ones who ‘dropped dead from a heart attack after breathing too much air on a Code Red day.’

Read more in Susanne’s full post, Thank You EPA.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Health / Comments are closed

Focus on Congress, Not EPA Delays

Should EPA delay its air pollution rules?

That’s the question posted for National Journal’s Expert Bloggers today. Among the industry and environmental thought leaders who posted comments was EDF’s own Fred Krupp. He pointed out that EPA delays are not the real problem:

EPA should move swiftly to put science-based human health protections in place for mercury, arsenic, acid gases and deadly particulates. But the bigger threat is that Congress might try to delay vital Clean Air Act protections for its own – decidedly non-scientific – reasons.

Fred cites a long list of health, environmental and economic benefits of the Clean Air Act, and then says:

Yet Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) has announced that he will introduce legislation to delay EPA’s proposed Air Toxics Rule — even before EPA finishes the public notice and comment effort that’s currently underway, and in spite of the fact that the power plant Air Toxics Rule has been 21 years in the making … Congress should intervene if EPA is going too slowly and lives are being put at risk. But Congress should never delay vital health protections – not when we have time-tested bipartisan solutions that will save lives and strengthen our economy.

You can read Fred’s full response, and the other expert opinions, on National Journal‘s Energy & Environment blog.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Policy / Comments are closed