Parents worry about countless things when it comes to our children. Of the Top 10 parental woes, climate change probably doesn’t make the cut. But it should.
Climate change is already affecting us — from air pollution, to sea level rise, to the economy — and those effects will continue to expand and increase.
Until recently, I took the air we breathe for granted. In the past few years, I developed adult-onset asthma after spending most of my life living within two miles of a coal-burning power plant. My family had no prior history of asthma — but that power plant polluted the air I breathed. And while the correlation isn’t definite, it is concerning.
And now, more so than ever before, kids like yours and mine are at risk.
One in 10 children in the United States has asthma, a statistic that’s continuing to grow. Warmer temperatures from climate change promote the production of harmful ground level ozone, a known asthma trigger. Many other triggers like nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide derive from the combustion of fossil fuels. By using clean energy and energy efficiency instead of fossil fuels like fracked natural gas, we will clean up the air that we and our children depend on.
Then there’s sea level rise. Within 50 years, some areas in Hampton Roads will be underwater with extreme frequency or permanently. Average hours of flooding in Norfolk have already risen from about 20 hours annually to about 250 hours annually, according to the Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise Adaptation Forum.
We will have to raise roads and buildings and upgrade our infrastructure. These widespread modifications will cost billions of dollars — but what if we do all of those things but don’t reduce carbon emissions? If Virginia does not take steps towards renewable energy and efficiency, the seas will keep rising and any money and time spent adapting will be wasted.
Fighting climate change also means building a clean energy economy — which will create jobs. I am a business owner as well as a mother, and a strong economy is important to me and my son’s future. As the Pilot has reported, according to the American Jobs Project offshore wind could create more than 14,000 jobs, not to mention the countless jobs that could come from the solar power and energy efficiency industries.
This past Wednesday was the anniversary of an historic event. One year ago, President Obama put forward the Clean Power Plan as an essential piece of his strategy to address climate change. The plan sets the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants and encourages the development of clean and renewable energy. By 2030, the Clean Power Plan’s public health and climate benefits are estimated to be worth $54 billion per year, and are also estimated to save the average American family about $85 annually on their energy bills.
Unfortunately, some state officials are using taxpayer dollars to stop implementation of the Clean Power Plan. These officials are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to stop these safeguards at the expense of our health.
Fortunately, Virginia is not one of the states suing the EPA. Attorney General Mark Herring has stood with a coalition of states supportive of the Clean Power Plan. Furthermore, Gov. Terry McAuliffe is moving forward on developing Virginia’s plan, despite the efforts of some members of the in the General Assembly.
The governor’s Executive Order 57 created a group to study options for Virginia’s compliance with the Clean Power Plan, led by the Department of Natural Resources. This is a step forward. Hopefully it will result in a plan for Virginia which includes all power plants already built and those that will be built in the future, long term overall carbon emission reductions, and focuses heavily on energy efficiency and clean energy technologies.
If implemented correctly, the Clean Power Plan will be a huge win for Virginia’s health, wallets, and most importantly, our children.