With all eyes on the international climate negotiations beginning today in Copenhagen, the Obama administration took a significant step forward to address domestic greenhouse gas emissions.
In response to the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court decision, the Environmental Protect Agency has released an endangerment finding, concluding that greenhouse emissions endanger public health and welfare. It is expected that this announcement will give President Obama much-needed momentum when he visits the climate talks next week, and help keep international negotiations moving forward.
Closer to home, the EPA’s endangerment finding is good news for our wildlands and communities alike. Unlike previous years of denial and delay, the Obama Administration is upholding its pledge to address climate change and unlock America’s clean energy potential, and with it jobs across the country.
But let’s focus on the health aspect of this finding for a minute. All too often the climate debate is limited to a discussion about the costs of addressing climate change — with skeptics exaggerating the pocketbook pain and forgetting about the dramatic costs of inaction.
Lost in this shuffle are the very real impacts families across the country will feel as the effects of climate change continue to unfold. The number of extremely hot days is expected to increase, and with it the risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Higher temps are also expected to increase ground-level ozone, which is bad news for anyone with asthma — in addition to anyone who, well, breaths while in an urban area. Add to the list: water and food-borne pathogens, including E. coli and salmonella, are projected to increase. And then there are severe weather events, from prolonged droughts to rainstorms and hurricanes. If you’ve ever been ill or had a loved one who was sick, you know all too well the toll disease takes on a family — including stress, lost income and time, medical expenses and sometimes much worse. Yet, somehow those that want to scare us into inaction fail to mention those very real costs when discussing climate change.
But don’t be fooled. The EPA’s endangerment finding advances the climate ball in significant ways — boosting Obama’s presence in Copenhagen next week, keeping the Senate moving forward on their climate bill, and connecting the sometimes amorphous idea of climate change to something very real for all of us: our health.