A few weeks ago, the American Lung Association in Ohio brought together public health professionals from across the state and a senior official from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to Byrd Polar Research Center at the Ohio State University to participate in a webcast of the White House Summit on Climate Change and Health. The attendees came together to watch the live stream of the event, which included presentations from the U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and several other panels of health professionals.
The summit brought together health and medical professionals, academics and other stakeholders to empower people and communities with the information and tools they need to protect public health in the face of climate change. Two prominent Ohio physicians from University Hospital in Cleveland and the Cleveland Clinic also participated in breakout panel discussions from the White House as part of the summit, representing Ohio well.
The Byrd Polar Research Center was selected as one of a handful of satellite locations across the country to participate in the summit via webcast, and Dr. Richard Spinard, chief scientist at NOAA, participated in the summit from the Columbus location. It should come as no surprise that Ohio was chosen to play a larger role in the event, as we have so much to gain from action against climate change and air pollution.
Those who work in the field of public health see the implications of poor air quality every day. They see children who are forced to stay indoors during their summer breaks because their asthma prevents them from playing outside when there are smog alerts in their area. As ozone and carbon pollution continues to fuel climate change, these incidents will only continue to rise. It can be incredibly discouraging and concerning.
One of the best things we can do right now to reduce the pollution that worsens climate change is to support the Clean Power Plan. The plan is a flexible, state-based approach to reducing carbon pollution by 30 percent by the year 2030. The EPA projects the benefits of the plan will include the prevention of 150,000 asthma attacks during the first year of full implementation.
Power plants are responsible for 40 percent of the U.S. carbon pollution causing climate change, yet there are currently no federal limits on this pollution that threatens public health. There are federal limits on dangerous pollutants like mercury, soot and arsenic, but currently no federal safeguards against carbon pollution. Ohio’s electricity sector produced 111.7 million tons of carbon in 2013, ranking the state third in the nation for emissions. We have so much to gain from reducing this pollution.
There is also an economic benefit to carbon action. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. is spending billions of dollars in Medicaid expenses related to asthma each year. From the soot and smog reductions alone, for every dollar invested through the Clean Power Plan, American families will see up to $7 in health benefits.
Given that Ohio is home to 200,000 asthmatic children, including 5,000 in Delaware County alone, this is something we must come together to support to ensure a healthy future for our kids. The time to act is now for our families, our economy and our health.