Doctor Prescribes a Strong Clean Power Plan for Global Health
Update: On March 28th, 2017, President Trump issued a sweeping executive order that undermines federal actions to combat climate change, including the landmark Clean Power Plan. Earthjustice will continue to defend the Clean Power Plan in court against any Trump administration attempts to dismantle it.
This is a guest blog by Ana E. Nobis, M.D., MPH, a recent graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Occupational and Environmental Medicine residency program. Dr. Nobis is also a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where she was an Annika Rodriguez Scholar.
Dr. Nobis is passionate about global occupational health, environmental medicine and public health. She holds a Certificate in Global Health from Vanderbilt University and has participated in field-based research in Nicaragua, focusing on the epidemic of chronic kidney disease among young sugarcane workers.
Currently, Dr. Nobis is working as an occupational and environmental medicine physician and also advises undergraduate students exploring careers in medicine and public health.
As a mother and a physician, I feel a moral obligation to participate in the climate change conversation and to support the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, an effort to drastically reduce carbon emissions in the United States.
My daughter is 8 months old and as healthy as can be. I want her and other children to keep their good health. I want her to be able to walk along the shores of Lake Michigan without the threat of a pollution-triggered asthma attack, contracting West Nile virus from a mosquito bite or becoming dehydrated from extreme heat.
I don’t just want this for my precious daughter; I want this for all children.
I know that if we don’t do something to avert the disaster of global warming, children across the globe will face severe consequences. The public health ramifications of unchecked global warming are staggering.
As an occupational and environmental medicine physician, I treat workers from all labor sectors. I am all too aware of the dangers of toiling in extreme heat. Individuals who work in hot conditions are already at risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death from hot working conditions.
These risks are currently greatest in areas such as Central America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, but as global warming intensifies, other geographic areas could become just as perilous for workers laboring in conditions that are simply too hot for humans.
Coal-fired power plants are the largest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, and carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas pollutant.
But coal-fired power plants emit other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, mercury and particulate matter. Many of these pollutants can affect the brain, heart and lungs—not only those of people walking around now, but of unborn babies, too.
The Clean Power Plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants 30 percent by the year 2030. These reductions will lead to corresponding reductions in the other pollutants from these plants, along with reductions in the health impacts they cause.
The plan is strong but flexible. It allows states to tailor their approach. A recent study modeled scenarios based on different carbon standards. The scenario most closely resembling the standards of the Clean Power Plan predicted we could avoid 3,500 premature deaths, 1,000 hospitalizations and 220 heart attacks every single year.
For my daughter’s sake, and for the sake of so many other children like her, we must take action. The Clean Power Plan is a solid first step that will make the United States a global leader in this necessary effort.