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Media: Let’s Limit Carbon Emissions Op-ed by M&O Project Manager in NC

Media: Let’s Limit Carbon Emissions Op-ed by M&O Project Manager in NC

Winston-Salem Journal
August 10, 2015
Guest editorial written by: Alison Lawrence Jones, North Carolina Project Manager, Mothers & Others for Clean Air
View the original here:

Let’s Limit Carbon Emissions

On June 23, the U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, told health leaders gathered at the White House Summit on Climate Change and Health that climate change poses a “serious, immediate and global threat to human health,” urging that it is “well past time” to take action. Recent evidence makes it clear that the health impacts are already being felt today.

Forsyth County has seen many poor air quality days in the last few years, and as stated in the recent study “Climate Change and our Environment: the effect of allergic and respiratory disease,” higher temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide produce higher pollen levels.

The American Lung Association in its 2015 “State of the Air” report gave Forsyth County a failing grade for ozone pollution because ozone levels reached code orange for 14 days, making the air dangerous for people with lung disease to breathe. Forsyth County is home to 23,206 adults with asthma and 7,552 children with the disease. More than 20,347 people in Forsyth County live with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that over time makes it harder and harder to breathe. For the millions of Americans who live with chronic lung diseases, high ozone can make it difficult for them to breathe, cause them to cough and wheeze and send them to the emergency room and hospitals. Breathing high ozone can even increase their risk of dying early. Children growing up where ozone levels are high may risk having lung disease later in life.

The Obama administration announced on Aug. 3 the final plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan marks a critical step forward in protecting Americans’ health from the burden of power plant pollution and the impacts of climate change as the first federal plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Doing so will also result in immediate reductions in other life-threatening pollutants from power plants linked to asthma attacks, heart attacks, missed days of work and school and even premature death.

In the 2013 study published in the journal Nature Climate Change led by Dr. Jason West and others, it was noted that significantly reducing carbon emissions would save up to 300,000 to 700,000 lives globally on a yearly basis. By doing a cost-benefit analysis, the researchers determined that reducing carbon emissions by one ton would provide $50 to $380 in savings.

Limiting carbon pollution is an essential step forward to cleaner, healthier air. According to the recent “2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change: Policy Responses to Protect Public Health,” reducing carbon pollution from power plants and other sources can provide immediate and long-lasting health benefits. Cleaning up carbon pollution will reduce other pollutants emitted from power plants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury, as well as reducing ozone and fine particle pollution. Those pollutants can cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, lung cancer, developmental harm and premature death.

The EPA estimates that in the first year that the Clean Power Plan is in place, the steps to reduce carbon pollution will have powerful benefits to public health including the reduction of other power plant pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

In the first year, these co-benefits will prevent up to 4,000 premature deaths nationwide. People with asthma in the U.S. will suffer 100,000 fewer asthma attacks. According to a recent study by Harvard and Syracuse Universities, a strong plan to reduce carbon emissions would result in 120 prevented deaths each year beginning in 2020.

By 2030 when the plan is fully implemented, these steps will reduce up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks across the nation every year. These changes are also remarkably cost-effective, with the benefits estimated to be $6 to $10 for every $1 in costs — that’s an estimated total of $55 billion to $93 billion in benefits versus $8.9 billion in costs at the highest end.

States have flexibility when implementing this plan. Once standards are adopted, states will have up to three years to develop plans to meet their goals depending on whether they do so individually or with neighboring states.

We know that reducing carbon emissions shows significant impacts for health. We hope North Carolina’s leaders will make the right choice for the health and future of its citizens.