EPA's Carbon Pollution Limit: Critical Step To Healthier Communities

The new carbon rule announced today by the US EPA is nothing short of an historic step toward creating healthier, more secure communities. These standards put limits on industrial carbon pollution from new power plants. They represent the first-ever national industrial carbon pollution standards for power plants, and are a critical first step to protect the health of our children and families. 

Carbon pollution causes climate change, and that constitutes one of the most serious threats to public health facing our nation – and the world – in the 21st century.

Climate change is caused by carbon pollution, which makes the atmosphere warm measurably and rapidly. Rising temperatures trigger a host of environmental changes that affect health.

This new EPA standard helps protect the most vulnerable among us—including the elderly and our children, people with chronic heart or lung illness, and the economically disadvantaged (70% of whom are women, globally) —from the health threats worsened by carbon-fueled climate change. Climate change does not discriminate & local communities need to be better prepared.

Some of the key effects of climate change that harm health include extreme heat, air pollution including ground-level ozone smog, and airborne allergens including pollen from plants. A new 2012 paper from the American Thoracic Society describes how lung doctors expect asthma cases to rise as carbon pollution and climate change soars.

  • Rising temperatures worsen ozone smog pollution, and that’s bad news for people with asthma.  There are now an estimated 25 million American with asthma. If you know someone with asthma, you know someone whose health is being challenged by climate change and carbon pollution.
  • Allergenic pollens are among other health-harming air pollutants affected by climate change.  With more Carbon Dioxide in the air – CO2, our biggest manmade greenhouse gas -- plants produce more pollen and over a longer season.
  • Extreme heat can send tens of thousands of people to emergency rooms.
  • Floods force people from their homes and cost billions…
  • …and can lead to waterborne illnesses, even as climate change encourages the spread of other infectious diseases, like dengue fever and Lyme disease.

NRDC has webpages at www.nrdc.org/climatemaps where you can explore how vulnerable your community is to the effects of climate change & what can be done to prepare for climate-health threats. The site includes information on over 3,000 monthly weather records that were broken in 2011, by extreme events that cost billions in damage to communities, home, business, crops, and even more untold billions in upended lives and health costs. Climate change is contributing to some key types of this damaging extreme weather: heat waves, droughts, coastal flooding, extreme rainfall events, even the maximum wind speeds of hurricanes are being fueled by climate change, which is driven by human carbon pollution. We can do better than this. And today’s announcement is a giant step in that direction.

Besides public health protection, the new carbon pollution standard will spur innovation in clean technologies and create good jobs. Poll after poll confirms that the American people count on EPA to protect them from dangerous carbon pollution, don’t trust polluters to police themselves, and don’t buy the polluters’ claims that EPA safeguards hurt jobs. 

Now let’s do something ourselves for our kids’ future: say thanks to EPA Administrator Jackson, and send in comments on these carbon pollution limits on new power plants. A public comment period is now open. This is our first chance to stand up and defend our kids and grandkids’ health, safety and security from climate change’s harms, at a national level. Let’s make this historic moment count – because limits on carbon pollution and climate change are huge wins for public health.