August 25, 2019
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Climate change is a health emergency

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Saco Middle School student Antonia Farago-Dumsch, 14, holds a sign outside Portland City Hall in March 2019 as part of a worldwide rally to draw attention to climate change.

Climate change is a health emergency, but the Trump administration is reversing course on clean power and a stable climate.

The Trump administration has finalized their rule to replace the Clean Power Plan, which was put into place in 2015. The Clean Power Plan was set to cut carbon pollution from the electric power sector by 32 percent by 2030 and, so far, we’ve been on track to meet those targets. At a time when even steeper cuts are necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change, this new replacement plan is expected to slow the transition of the power sector’s transition to clean, renewable energy. This could cause as many as 1,400 additional deaths by 2030 due to the toxic chemicals from these plants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new rule gives states the authority to regulate rather than setting a federal cap on power plant emissions that are contributing to the climate crisis. Maine is the tailpipe of the country, and it’s not fair for Mainers to take the brunt of these irresponsible environmental policies, especially if surrounding states refuse to act. The gulf stream carries air pollution from other states to Maine, which is one reason we have the third-highest adult asthma rate in the country.

As summer heats up, Maine will be faced with bad air days where ozone and smog pollution make it unsafe for Mainers to be outdoors. We all deserve to breathe clean air, and gutting the Clean Power Plan threatens our health. By 2030, the Clean Power Plan was projected to prevent 90,000 asthma attacks, 300,000 missed work and school days and 3,600 premature deaths annually, with health benefits valued at $14 billion to $34 billion nationally.

Increased carbon pollution from the burning of dangerous fossil fuels is accelerating the warming of the planet, and warmer annual temperatures pose a risk to public health. Longer and warmer summers are causing the tick population to multiply exponentially. Lyme disease cases in Maine have increased tenfold in the last few years and tick-borne anaplasmosis is surging.

The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans. We are seeing increases in harmful algal blooms here in Maine from nutrient pollution and warming waters. In states like Florida, algal blooms have gotten so bad that they have killed thousands of species and caused gastrointestinal, respiratory and neurological problems in humans.

The science and the risks to our health are clear. The burning of fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which are drastically changing the atmosphere of our planet and making the climate more dangerous for us. Luckily, Maine is tackling the climate challenge head on with a commitment to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. It’s high time for our federal officials to join us.

Samantha Paradis is a registered nurse at Waldo County General Hospital and a member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. She is the mayor of Belfast.

 



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