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Sensible wholesale action needed on climate change
Catherine Thomasson, MD
October 18, 2012
Tornadoes in February, a 30 percent corn crop loss in the Midwest due to heat and drought, doubled rates of West Nile virus, floods in Miami every full moon. It’s obvious that climate change is real and harming our health and infrastructure. Yet our nation has not yet taken decisive action to reduce our carbon footprint and break our fossil fuel addiction.
Some countries, like Germany, understand the urgency of the issue and have taken dramatic steps in this direction. This summer, renewable power surpassed the 50-percent mark in Germany’s energy mix. The country closed eight nuclear reactors after the Fukushima catastrophe in March 2011, and still reduced carbon emissions by two percent in the last year. Thanks to public demand, voiced by every political party, all nuclear power plants in Germany will be phased out by 2022. With the closure of nuclear reactors, there is more incentive to bring additional renewable energy sources on line. Renewables offer the most cost-effective strategy within Germany’s carbon emission cap-and-trade system, put in place in 2005. In conjunction with a feed-in tariff system, which pays producers higher prices for renewables to stimulate investment has resulted in a boom in rooftop solar panels, despite the fact that Germany has more cloud cover than Seattle.
But here in the U.S., such sensible wholesale action is stalled. PSR is working on many fronts to help the U.S. address climate change without resorting to nuclear power, but there is no national legislation on the issue (although we would support the carbon tax that has been floated recently as a possibility). In the absence of Congressional action, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is providing federal leadership spurred by two Supreme Court rulings requiring action. PSR members were among the more than 2.1 million Americans who provided testimony and comments supporting EPA’s proposed carbon-emission limits for new electrical plants. Despite broad citizen support, the House of Representatives has passed numerous bills and amendments to strike down or dilute the rule, which, in reality, has only a minor effect but would be the first rule ever to address carbon pollution.
Climate change is the most serious unaddressed public health threat facing the planet. Encourage your friends and colleagues to join us in advocating for solutions at the local, state and federal level.