The health of the Earth Impacts Our Health

Apr 22, 2016
In The News

Nothing brought home the future effects that climate change will have on us more acutely than the massive methane gas leak that struck Porter Ranch in California.

The health impacts were startling. Resident’s reported instances of dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, or nosebleeds. Children, who can be particularly vulnerable, were among those reporting illnesses.

It was a rare opportunity to look into the future of what climate change, if ignored, has in store for humanity.

Rising temperatures, sea levels and super storms are just one aspect of what our future could look like. The health impacts of climate change are what our children and their children could be living with if the warming of the planet continues at its current pace.

However, it’s a future we can alter if we decide to act on the climate change.  Earth Day gives us that opportunity to reflect on this critical issue.

While there are still deniers who refuse to accept a mountain of scientific evidence, the vast majority of people accept climate change as a real threat that needs to be addressed.

Many people around the world are treating climate change with the urgency it deserves and are moving forward on policies to combat it.

Let’s start with the investment tax credit (ITC) designed to encourage the expansion of solar energy – just one of the many incentives to encourage renewable energy.

The federal spending compromise reached at the end of last year included a critical a five-year renewal of the ITC for solar energy, which was expected to expire in 2017.

This is not only good in the fight against climate change and good for the country, but it’s good for our region as we are a leader in the development of solar energy. 

Nationwide, we rank behind only Los Angeles with the most solar photovoltaic capacity installed for 2015. A recent report determined that San Diego County is home to more than 8,000 solar jobs.

The renewal of the ITC will allow San Diego to continue at its record pace and being number two in the country will also motivate us to take that top spot!

The ITC extension also helps the goal of the President’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) to reduce carbon pollution and address climate change. Extending the ITC for five years gives us a head start in shifting from fossil fuel to renewable energy when the CPP will fully kick in in 2022.

The CPP sets goals of reducing carbon emission by more than 30% by 2030. Much of those reductions in carbon emissions will come from the expansion of renewable energy, such as solar. This makes the extension of the ITC even more significant.

While most of us are working to stop climate change and the health threats it will bring, opponents are just has motivated to stop our efforts.

The CPP is facing a barrage of lawsuits. The recent Supreme Court decision to stop President Obama from implementing the CPP while these legal challenges are considered was disheartening. It also illustrates the importance of having a full complement of justices on the Court.

This month I joined with a bipartisan group of current and former Senators and House members in filing an amicus brief in support of the President’s Clean Power Plan.

Submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the brief was signed by 164 current and past Representatives and 44 past and present Senators.

This bipartisan group from 38 states made the case to the Appeals Court that the CPP is consistent with the intent of the EPA’s authority to protect public health and the environment. In keeping with the intention of the Clean Air Act of 1970, the EPA does have the right to regulate new pollutants.

All told, the CPP with save consumers $155 billion by 2030, create jobs, and more importantly protect our health and the health of our children.

The reduction in pollution from the CPP will prevent 90,000 childhood asthma attacks through 2030‎.  If protecting a child’s health doesn’t motivate people to act it’s hard to imagine what will.

Congress needs to join with the President in building on his Clean Power Plan. Earth Day is a reminder of the precious gift we have and that we need to protect it. Without a healthy planet it will be ever more difficult to maintain the health of its inhabitants.