Updated Special Alert: IPCC Synthesis Report
Catherine Thomasson, MD
November 3, 2014
The science is clear, the solutions are outlined. IPCC's authoritative report says humanity's healthy existence is on the line. Our fossil fueled system is causing climate chaos and damaging our ability to feed and house ourselves. It is widening the range of many insect-borne infectious diseases and causing droughts and floods.
The new report provides the strongest analysis yet that not only do we need to reduce our emissions; we need to transition off fossil fuels entirely by 2100. If we don't, we'll have summers in Wisconsin that feel like Texas, along with more asthma exacerbations and deaths from air pollution and dengue fever.
PSR is ready to take action! We need to call out the energy companies' lies just as we did the tobacco companies'. Moving the status quo isn't easy when you're fighting millions of dollars, but it's easy to explain that mining, burning and managing the wastes from fossil fuels involves pollution from the well site to the plant. Like coal, natural gas emits particulate pollution, creates nitrous oxide pollution, and fouls our water and air at the well site.
Why would we build more climate change-producing natural gas plants when we can have sustainable energy and lower-cost energy efficiency? It's time to glory in the sun and wind because these sources don't pollute and create needed jobs -- which in itself addresses the health issues associated with unemployment. The wonderful news is that installation of solar power is more cost-effective than ever and is taking off, with a growth rate of one gigawatt per quarter in the U.S. Wind is now cheaper than coal. The U.S. ranks second in wind installations, and wind provides 4.5% of U.S. electricity. Many reports show that off-the-shelf technologies can provide 80% of our energy needs by 2050.
Energy efficiency is half of the solution. In New York City, tens of thousands of buildings have been assessed using a mandated energy benchmarking exercise, and the results have been posted publicly. Many build owners are choosing to comply with advanced standards early, fostering growth among companies that provide energy efficiency services and boosting the number of construction jobs.
The IPCC, ending a five-year review of reports from over 2000 scientists, reports that the necessary energy transition is not only possible but is economically viable. The IPCC's analysis reports that the savings from a clean energy transition would vastly outweigh the costs. Building out healthy energy solutions will also be cheaper than paying a rapidly growing bill for severe and irreversible climate impacts.
PSR is launching a focused effort to ensure that the EPA's Clean Power Plan will be implemented with 30% of carbon emissions from power plants being replaced by sustainable energy and energy efficiency. We are calling on all health professionals to join us to educate your communities on the health threats of climate change and to push for healthy solutions. This will greatly improve our health, as you can learn at our next webinar.