-Neha Middela (‘19)
In recent months, the current presidential administration has repealed crucial environmental legislation within the United States, protecting the health, waterways and landscapes of the American public. Most recently, the Environmental Protection Agency, under the Trump Administration, repealed the “Once In, Always In” policy, dating from the Clinton Administration, regulating the amount of hazardous pollution within industrial areas. In October, the administration took action to remove the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which advocated for clean and renewable energy, eschewing the plan for legislation that does not malign the usability of coal power.
Moreover, recent measures have attempted to erase the very existence of climate change from the lexicon of the government through removing resources on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, which educate students and the general public about facts and outlines resources in order to combat this issue. Pages on the website of the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management have also been removed. Efforts have also been taken in order to undermine the urgency and imminence of this issue through replacing the wording “climate change” with alternatives such as “resiliency” and “nutrient change efficiency”.
The importance of reversing climate change cannot be overstated, as the health of our planet is meshed with the overall health of humanity, and climate change poses a grave threat to human health through the propagation of diseases, lack of access to clean water and damage to living environments. Mustafa Ali, the former Environmental Protection Justice head at the EPA, perhaps encapsulates the views of many people best when he states that “they’re really going to be killing people,” referring to the public health concerns caused by the emission of hazardous pollutants, which kill 9 million people per year, worldwide. Additionally, the effects of climate change in terms of public health concerns often disproportionately affect marginalized groups and communities.
Ultimately, while campaigns for environmental legislation and governmental action acknowledging climate change often reference the undue effects of climate change on the future of our planet, recent evidence has shown that the malignant impacts of climate change are in fact imminent, and government action regarding the dynamic issue is of utmost importance within the near future. In the next ten to thirty years, 250,000 deaths per year are expected to be attributed to climate change worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, as climate change prolongs the transmission period of several diseases, enlarges the geographic area in which certain diseases, such as schistosomiasis, can spread, and increases amounts of allergens and hazardous substances which lead to respiratory diseases.
Furthermore, climate change also increases the occurrence of natural disasters. Climate scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology state that climate change has exacerbated the amount of rainfall and the subsequent damage caused by recent hurricanes such as Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Jose. Adequate environmental legislation and climate action measures from the federal government can greatly alleviate these causes for concern.
James Hansen, a former NASA climate scientist has stated that “it’s not tipping points I worry about, but points of no return”. He, along with many other international organizations, intergovernmental panels, and common citizens alike advocate for governmental responses in the form of meaningful legislation and climate action, in order to prevent cataclysmic outcomes within the near future.
Biello, David. “Dangerous Global Warming Closer Than You Think, Climate Scientists Say.” Scientific American, 4 Dec. 2013, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dangerous-climate-change-imminent/.
“Climate Change and Health.” World Health Organization, 2017, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/.
“EPA Ends 20 Year ‘Once In, Always In’ Policy for MACT Standards: May Effect Enforcement, New Permits.” Foley and Lardner LLP, 29 Jan. 2018, http://www.foley.com/epa-ends-20-year-once-in-always-in-policy-for-mact-standards-may-effect-enforcement-new-permits-01-29-2018/.
Friedman, Lisa, and Brad Plumer. “E.P.A. Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Oct. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/09/climate/clean-power-plan.html.
Funes, Yessenia. “The EPA Wants to Regulate Factories Like Your Local Dry Cleaners.” Earther, Earther.com, 26 Jan. 2018, earther.com/the-epa-wants-to-regulate-factories-like-your-local-dry-1822461438?utm_medium=sharefromsite&utm_source=Earther_twitter.
Milman, Oliver. “US Federal Department Is Censoring Use of Term ‘Climate Change’, Emails Reveal.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 7 Aug. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/07/usda-climate-change-language-censorship-emails.
Welch, Craig. “How Climate Change Likely Heightened Harvey’s Fury.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 20 Sept. 2017, news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/08/hurricane-harvey-climate-change-global-warming-weather/.