by John Bernard, Special to the BDN
Bangor Daily News op-ed
On Sept. 21, hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of New York City to demand bold action now to confront climate change. Whether or not you joined the march, we can all have an impact in this fight. We can support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed “Clean Power Plan” to cut carbon pollution from power plants for the first time.
Since power plants produce nearly 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the U.S. that is disrupting our climate, it’s crucial that we act right away to move toward clean sources of power. While we have safeguards against other pollutants such as mercury, soot and arsenic, power plants are allowed to dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air every day, fueling climate change.
The Clean Power Plan sets common-sense limits on carbon pollution and will help spur the kind of innovation that will power the 21st century with clean energy.
Not surprisingly, those who have a vested interest in dirty power plants are digging in to block the proposed carbon pollution rules in Congress and the courts. While representatives from Big Coal turned out at recent EPA hearings to oppose the Clean Power Plan, the good news is that many supporters showed up to say yes to clean energy and clean air.
Most importantly to me as a grandfather, our children and grandchildren have the most to gain from these new safeguards. Infants and children generally breathe more rapidly than adults and have underdeveloped immune systems and organs. Thus they have a higher rate of exposure and, as a result, are more susceptible to the negative health effects of air pollution from dirty power plants and other sources. That’s why the plan must make the well-being of all children the highest priority when establishing the new carbon pollution limits.
The stakes are high for our kids. The National Climate Assessment states that “climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, threats to mental health, and illnesses transmitted by food, water and disease carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks. Certain people are especially vulnerable, especially children. Early action provides the largest health benefits. As threats increase, our ability to adapt to future changes may be limited.”
There is no doubt that the love and concern that parents and grandparents share for our children and grandchildren is a powerful force that can overcome the entrenched dirty energy interests standing in the way of a healthier planet. There is no downside, after all, in having the energy that powers our lives increasingly provided by the sun, wind and other forms of kid-safe, climate-safe energy. Moreover, investing in solar and wind strengthens the local and national economies, ensuring a bright, healthy and prosperous future for all. All it takes is a willingness to take action.
The Clean Power Plan is an important step in the right direction in the fight against climate pollution, but it should be strengthened to respond to the scale of the problem. The proposed cuts in carbon emissions need to be deeper, renewables and energy efficiency must be prioritized, and there must be strong enforcement to ensure the plan’s goals are realized.
EPA is taking public comment on the Clean Power Plan until Oct. 16. In the face of so much fossil fuel industry pressure to weaken the proposed rule, parents and families need to make our voices heard loudly and clearly.
John Bernard of South Portland is a professor emeritus of English literature. He taught at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and the University of Houston Honors College. He is a father, grandfather and a member of Climate Parents.