Valentine’s Day, 2019. I testified this morning before the U.S. EPA, urging them not to roll back the limits on carbon emissions (CO2) from coal-fired power plants. Yes, it’s sad but true: The EPA has proposed to allow coal-fired plants to emit more, not less, of this powerful greenhouse gas.
When it was my turn to testify, I told them that more CO2 emissions would increase climate change, and climate change is a health emergency. I listed some of the specific harms to health that are caused by rising global temperatures and heat waves, by wildfires, by storms, hurricanes and flooding.
I reminded them that they are the nation’s Environmental Protection Agency, and that their actions should enhance our health and protect our climate, not endanger them.
And I quoted the report published this fall by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which called for sweeping actions at unprecedented levels over the next 12 years to slash carbon emissions if we are to avoid catastrophic impacts.
Did they hear me? Hard to tell. But I know one person who did.
Testifying immediately after me was a young woman who staffs one of the big national environmental groups. She set aside her prepared testimony and told us—choking back tears—that she has a two-year-old daughter. “Twelve years from now, my daughter will be 14,” she said.
She forced out a few more sentences, and then was unable to go on.
She got it.
This young mother heard just how serious the threats are. How urgent it is for us to take massive action. How quickly we have to move if we are to save precious lives.
Even though she was unable to finish, I know her testimony will be far more memorable than mine.