When I was at the UN Earth Summit in Rio, I felt profoundly frustrated with world leaders’ paralysis on climate change. But when I returned home and learned that Americans had filed more than 2.25 million comments in support of standards limiting carbon pollution, my sense of hope was renewed.
Heads of state may be lagging, but ordinary citizen are pushing ahead. We are throwing our support behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever standard to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants. And we are doing it with record force: This is the most responses the EPA has received on any issue ever, and they were all sent within about ten weeks.
Americans are mobilizing because we know carbon pollution threatens the health and well-being of our families.
We just have to look at the weather report to see why. The Northeast was blanketed by yet another heat wave last week. Here in New York, residents flocked to roof tops, water fountains, and crowded beaches in an effort to stay cool. But even if people managed to find relief from the heat, it wasn’t so easy to escape its companion hazard: dirty air.
Warmer days mean more smog in the air. More smog means more people will suffer asthma symptoms, respiratory problems, heart attacks and even cancer.
Delivering comments in favor of proposed carbon standards to the EPA.
Carbon pollution will increase these dangers. Carbon pollution causes climate change, and rising temperatures make smog worse. The American Thoracic Society—the professional association of lung doctors—recently said climate change is especially dangerous for children and senior citizens because their lungs are more vulnerable to the respiratory diseases caused by smog.
The first half of 2012 has already shattered 1175 records for heat here in America. If we don’t act now to reduce carbon pollution, this rising heat will exact a heavy toll. NRDC recently released a report concluding that an additional 33,000 heat-related deaths could occur by 2050 as a result of climate change (click here for a map of the cities most affected).
We don’t have to sit back and watch as more intense heat threatens the health of our parents and children. We can act now to reduce the pollution that fuels this extreme weather.
The EPA has begun this process. A new court victory—one NRDC helped secure—confirmed yet again that the agency has the legal authority to limit carbon pollution because it endangers human health and well-being.
The standards to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants are a good first step toward reducing this danger. Now the EPA must take the next step and reduce carbon pollution from existing plants. With millions of Americans having already stood up for cutting carbon, the EPA will have plenty of support.
And as ordinary citizens continue to raise our voices, maybe world leaders will start to follow.