Climate change is one of the country’s most serious public health threats, said Gina McCarthy, the head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She spoke to a large crowd of local energy and environmental leaders at an annual conference today hosted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.
McCarthy shared one example of a direct public health threat.
“What you have to realize is that one in 10 kids in the United States of America has asthma,” she said. “Why am I mentioning asthma related to climate change? Because as the weather gets warmer, the smog will increase and there will be more kids in the hospital as a result of an asthma attack that’s been exacerbated by the change in temperature as a result of climate.”
McCarthy said that’s why the EPA, guided by the Obama Administration, put out a climate action plan to protect the most vulnerable from carbon pollution. The plan will work closely with states to target power plants to reduce their carbon emissions by the largest polluters: power plants.
“It’s engaging stakeholders and industry to work together to actually achieve some significant reductions in carbon pollution, but to do it in a way that’s cost effective, that’s practical, that’s real, that’s implementable, and that really respects the unique circumstances of each state,” said McCarthy.
Carbon pollution is regulated under the Clean Air Act. McCarthy said the EPA and President Obama are committed to showing people that tackling threats related to climate change is good for public health and the economy. She said since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970, air pollution from large industrial sources has gone down by 70 percent, while the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) tripled.
“So if you want solutions for a problem that is both environmental and economic, you won’t find a better tool available than the Clean Air Act,” said McCarthy, “because we can do this in ways that are reasonable and affordable and drive economic benefit in investments moving forward that will keep this country strong and healthy and internationally competitive.”
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