Pol releases report on health effects of climate action

Sep 29, 2020
In The News

On the last day of Climate Week, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney unveiled a report detailing the health and economic benefits of taking immediate action to combat global warming.

Surrounded by environmental advocates and community leaders at Hunter’s Point South Park on Saturday, Maloney released the 12-page document, which was prepared by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which Maloney chairs.

“It shows we can save hundreds of thousands of lives, avoid terrible illnesses and save trillions of dollars for our economy if we act now,” she said.

The report notes that in 2015, more than 169 nations gathered in Paris to agree to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. President Donald Trump officially withdrew the United States from the climate agreement last November.

Maloney, however, said the country, as well as individual states and cities, can still go forward with the agreements and goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Accordion to new research findings from Dr. Drew Shindell, a distinguished earth sciences professor at Duke University who testified before the oversight committee in August, keeping warming below two degrees Celsius would avoid at least 423,000 premature deaths in New York over the next 50 years.

Curbing global warming would also avoid about 400,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including an estimated 5,700 hospitalizations for children with asthma, according to the report.

“In just ten years, nearly 40 percent of the premature deaths due to air pollution in the state could be eliminated,” the report reads.

Climate action would also yield economic benefits to the state. According to the report, limiting warming would avoid 45 million lost workdays. The value of those health avoidances would exceed $3.5 trillion in the state.

Maloney said she hopes to issue a similar report for every state in the country, and urged legislators in those states to work with their communities to implement the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement.

In addition to the report, Maloney said she plans to introduce a series of bills in Congress to bring “concrete actions” to combat climate change.

The first bill, called the PREP Act, would require every federal agency to report annually on how they are planning and coordinating to become less dependent on fossil fuels. Another bill would require the U.S. Postal Service to upgrade its fleet to electric or zero-emission vehicles by 2040.

The last piece of legislation, called the Public Housing Solar Equity Act, would ensure that when a public housing authority sells or leases assets to private companies for the installation of solar panels, the residents would be the first to benefit from the solar energy.

“This was built on public housing, it belongs to public housing,” Maloney said. “The energy must first go to the residents of public housing, and they should benefit from this clean, low-cost fuel.”

Environmental advocates like Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, praised the report.

“There are real, measurable things that we know are out there that can be done to make a difference,” she said, “so we can prevent the worst impacts of climate change from happening.”

In New York, for example, state lawmakers passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which advocates for a carbon neutral economy by 2050, including major investments in renewable energy, Tighe said. The state also committed to get to 100 percent clean energy by 2040.

But the state can’t do it alone, she said, which is why it also needs the federal government to step up.

“It’s time to listen to the science,” she said. “We can take action and create jobs, save lives and save money.”

Catherine Skopic, chair of The Sierra Club of New York City, said there are things that individuals can do to tackle climate change, like modifying their lifestyles to use less of the Earth’s resources.

They can also support legislation, like the bills Maloney has introduced, and write letters to news outlets about climate change.

“The climate crisis is here now,” Skopic said. “It’s not decades in the future.”

Youth climate activists like Harry Manin from Sunrise Movement NYC, said local communities are already taking action and laying the groundwork for the Green New Deal, which the group supports.

In Astoria, for example, a coalition of environmental advocates is fighting back against a proposed project to replace 50-year-old power generators in the neighborhood, which advocates are calling an “all new fossil fuel power plant.”

In Sunset Park, advocacy groups like UPROSE are conceiving plans that would help the city and state meet its climate targets, Manin said.

“Communities across the city are ready to act to lead us to a Green New Deal,” he said. “Let’s give them the tools to make sure they get us there.”

Similarly, the Newtown Creek Alliance is part of the effort in north Brooklyn to halt the construction of a natural gas pipeline between Brownsville and Greenpoint.

Lisa Bloodgood, director of advocacy and education with NCA, noted that this year is the 10-year anniversary of the designation of Newtown Creek as a federal Superfund site. 

Right next to Hunter’s Point South Park is the mouth of Newtown Creek, one of the most polluted waterways in the country. She noted that the creek was a “birthplace of fossil fuel refining.”

“It played a predominant role in moving the global economy into a fossil fuel-based energy system,” she said. “This, in many ways, is the birthplace to it all.”

Bloodgood said the last few months have shown how “intimately intertwined” human health and ecological health are, underscoring the need for continued climate action.

“We’re here on the ground, working in the neighborhoods, doing the work,” she said. “We have a long way to go.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney convened with environmental advocates and community groups at Hunter’s Point South Park.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney convened with environmental advocates and community groups at Hunter’s Point South Park.
 

Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, spoke about actions New York has already taken.

Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, spoke about actions New York has already taken.

Lisa Bloodgood from Newtown Creek Alliance noted that this year is the 10th anniversary of the creek’s federal Superfund designation.

Lisa Bloodgood from Newtown Creek Alliance noted that this year is the 10th anniversary of the creek’s federal Superfund designation.

Catherine Skopic, chair of The Sierra Club of New York City, said individuals can modify their lifestyles to use fewer resources.

Catherine Skopic, chair of The Sierra Club of New York City, said individuals can modify their lifestyles to use fewer resources