The climate crisis is here. It is real and it is hurting our health. As physicians in Northern California, my colleagues and I see how climate change is making our patients sicker every day. We see infants and children with worsening asthma due to wildfire smoke exposure. We see adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease requiring stronger and more toxic medication due to worsening air pollution caused by gas-powered cars. And we see children and adults who are increasingly anxious and depressed about the fate of our planet. And they are right: our health and future — as well as that of all of humanity — is at stake.
But 2019 ended with a climate whimper as Congress missed the opportunity to make a more meaningful impact on climate change than it has in the last decade: by updating and extending the tax code to promote clean energy. A package of clean energy incentives, including for energy storage, solar and offshore wind as well as electric vehicles, failed to make it into Congress’s year-end government spending deal due to White House pressure.
These important clean energy incentives will improve our health while reducing climate change- causing emissions. By leveling the playing field between fossil fuels and clean energy we can improve our health and the health of our children. The burning of fossil fuels is directly associated with premature death around the world. Burning fossil fuels, like coal and crude oil, directly results in people having more heart attacks, respiratory disease, and strokes. Put bluntly: burning fossil fuels is killing millions of people, including children, right now.
Living near a major freeway or road is dangerous for our health because of exhaust caused by burning fossil fuels. By getting more electric vehicles on the road, we can make our air healthier and prevent asthma and also help limit the most catastrophic effects of climate change.Car exhaust accounts for 4 million new cases of childhood asthma each year around the world.
Right now, our tax code strongly favors the creation of new fossil fuel projects. Large-scale clean energy projects are possible and cost-effective. But we need to level the tax code, and hence the playing field for clean energy projects that rely on wind, solar, and complementary energy storage to get off the ground so that we, especially our children, can be healthy.
So, call your Congressperson today. Tell them the climate crisis is here and it’s affecting our health.Talk to local businesses who stand to benefit from these changes to the tax code and encourage them to call their Congressional representatives. We need to significantly up the pressure on Congress now so this opportunity is not lost again. The climate crisis is here and we no longer have the luxury of time. Congress needs to hear from us, as many of us as possible — Democrats, Republicans, young, old, West Coast, East Coast, farmer, businessperson, rich, poor. Our voices matter. And nothing is more important than our health.
The decisions we make today are critical to determining our health right now and the health of our children moving forward. There is no time to waste.
Bonus video added by Informed Comment: