Environment

The EPA Just Rolled out a Plan to Fight Carbon Pollution – Here's Why You Should Care

From Pope Francis to Charlize Theron, it seems like everyone’s talking about climate change this year. And rightfully so – with the UN’s COP21 climate negotiations coming up in just a few months, 2015 has seen the issue in the spotlight more than ever before.

Recently, President Obama made waves here in the United States as well by announcing the first-ever standards to limit carbon pollution. And it’s a big deal: we’re looking at the most aggressive action to combat climate change that we have seen to date in this country. The rules – called the Clean Power Plan – dictate that by 2030, carbon emissions from existing power plants must be cut 32 percent from their 2005 levels.

You’re no doubt familiar with some of the more dramatic impacts of climate change from carbon emissions: projected sea level rise that could inundate entire island nations, scenes of devastation from superstorms like Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan, the California drought, and even the Syrian civil war.

But what does climate change mean here in the United States?

Though many do not realize it, carbon pollution – and subsequently climate change – has a major impact on our health. Earlier this year, President Obama detailed the dangerous health impacts of climate change – from increasing asthma rates to students missing class from illness – in his remarks after the Roundtable on the Impacts of Climate Change on Public Health.

The main takeaway? We are paying the cost of carbon pollution in lives.

Fossil fuel-based energy generation is a relic of the past, and is fast being replaced by cost-competitive renewable energy. In fact, more than half of new American electricity capacity in 2014 was installed in the form of wind and solar. The American economy must embrace this clean energy transition – of which the rule is a key step – which will benefit the economy, create jobs, protect our national security, arrest the cycle of ever increasing severe weather events, and keep America competitive.

Which brings us back to the Clean Power Plan. Cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants not only puts us on the path to a clean, renewable future, but also on the road to recovery when it comes to public health benefits: the EPA estimates that the rule will help prevent 90,000 children’s asthma attacks nationwide and avoid nearly 300,000 missed school and work days. Furthermore, experts estimate that the Clean Power Plan would likely prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths per year nationally by 2030. Low-income families, often the ones living closest to pollution-spewing coal plants, stand to benefit the most. Besides saving anxious families undue stress and heartache, that saves our healthcare system and economy a lot of money.

In fact, the EPA estimates that these public health benefits will be worth up to $45 billion per year by 2030. Additionally, the White House predicts that the plan will save consumers a total of $155 billion in energy cost savings from 2020-2030. The plan makes sense not only from a public health standpoint, but also from an economic one.

But pollution knows no borders and we can make an even bigger impact globally on the health and economic well-being of people around the world. The United States has submitted its intended nationally-determined contribution (or INDC) to the United Nations, saying that it will cut greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The Clean Power Plan is not just instrumental to the strategy to meet this goal – it is the core of the strategy. And it is a critical signal to other nations that the U.S. intends to keep its word when it comes to cutting global warming pollution.

Of course, even though the rule was only finalized at the start of August, it has already come under fire from polluters and their allies in Congress trying to protect their bottom lines at the expense of our health. However, the current administration isn’t going to back down, and even states that are outspoken opponents of the rule – like Kentucky – are quietly positioning themselves to comply with it.

It’s time to spread the truth about the EPA’s Clean Power Plan: it is a crucial step toward protecting our public health and our future while also cutting electricity bills and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs through renewable energy investments and increased energy efficiency measures.

We must reach out to our state governments to encourage their support of the Clean Power Plan – our future depends on it.

Ken Berlin is the CEO and President of the Climate Reality Project.