Press Release

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Public Health at Risk from a Warming Planet

Ohio Environmental Council, September 27, 2013

Environment, economy, and infrastructure will be impacted.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release the first part of a massive report today called the Fifth Assessment Report (or AR5), summarizing the global scientific community’s assessment of the impacts of climate change.

While the final draft of the report will be released on September 30 and the full report released early next year, the findings released today affirm, once again, consensus in the scientific community that global warming is happening and caused by human activity.

According to the IPCC, a total of 209 Lead Authors and 50 Review Editors from 39 countries and more than 600 Contributing Authors from 32 countries contributed to the preparation of WGI AR5.

Key findings of the report: 

  • Climate change is already affecting extreme weather.
  • Human-made climate change is almost certain.
  • Sea levels will continue to rise due to warming oceans and loss of ice.
  • Even if we end emissions tomorrow, climate change could continue for centuries.
  • The last 30-year period is “very likely” the warmest in the last 800 years.

“Climate change is the challenge of our lifetime,” states David R. Celebrezze, Director of Air & Water Special Projects. “If we are to stave off the most damaging impacts, we need quick action in mitigating the cause of climate change and preparing for adaptation.”

According to the AR5, ninety-seven percent of scientists agree that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity.

Increased climate change means more significant health problems, more prevalence of diseases, drought, wildfires, disruption to water supplies and systems, and national security threats.

“Our state officials need to get off the fence and start taking meaningful action to protect the health of our communities,” continues Celebrezze. “Climate change doesn’t care if you are a Democrat or Republican, urban or rural. The impacts are going to be felt throughout our state.”

Public health implications of a warmer climate:

  • More smog days which lead to increased hospitalizations for respiratory ailments such as asthma and COPD.
  • More missed school and work days
  • More prevalence of nuisance insects like ticks and mosquitoes, while a decline in their predators such as amphibians.
  • More heart attacks
  • More extreme weather events such as floods and droughts

Those most at risk include:

  • Children and the elderly
  • People with respiratory ailments
  • People who work or exercise outside during the hottest part of the day

Off-The-Shelf Solutions

Individual level:

  • Reduce car idling.
  • Keep your car in good working order.
  • Fill up after 6 p.m.
  • Walk or bicycle to destinations and take public transportation when possible.
  • Use less electricity.
  • Replace old incandescent light bulbs with more Energy Star light bulbs.
  • Invest in insulation for the home.
  • Purchase energy efficient appliances.
  • Purchase water efficient appliances and faucet fixtures.
  • Don’t burn wood or trash.
  • Check the air quality forecast.
  • Stay informed on air quality related issues at the local, state, and federal level by signing up for OEC’s action alerts:
  • Install a rain barrel for watering plants and washing your car.

City level:

  • Adopt no-idling ordinances.
  • Adopt clean construction provisions for public works contracts.
  • Start (or continue) educational programs to promote air quality awareness in the community.
  • Retrofit, repower, or replace older diesel vehicles.
  • Adopt policies that encourage walking, bicycling, and public transit.
  • Replace old appliances with energy and water efficient appliances and faucet fixtures.
  • Build garden rooftops.
  • Set city-wide goals for locally-generated renewable energy, such as rooftop solar, geothermal and district heating/cooling for business parks, school campuses and government buildings.
  • Make government-owned facilities more energy efficient.

State level:

  • Keep and strengthen Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards for Ohio’s electric utilities.
  • Deploy increasing amounts of Combined Heat and Power for commercial buildings and manufacturers.
  • Adopt an “e-check” (tailpipe emissions testing) program for on road diesel trucks.
  • Reinvest in truck stop electrification.
  • Increase funding of the Diesel Emission Reduction Grant to $100 million a year for five years.
  • Adopt no-idling law similar to the one adopted in Illinois.
  • Team up with metropolitan planning organizations and nonprofits to educate the public on ozone pollution prevention and steps to reduce resident’s exposure.
  • Strengthen existing programs that help schools, hospitals, and manufacturers improve their energy efficiency
  • Adopt strong air regulations on fracking operations.
  • Invest heavily in non-highway modes of transportation, including pedestrian, bicycling, public transit, and passenger rail and promote freight shipment by water and rail.
  • Regulate outdoor wood-fired boilers.

Federal level:

  • Pass the Portman-Shaheen Industrial energy efficiency standards.
  • Fund the Diesel Emission Reduction Act to $500 million a year for 5 years.
  • Adopt strong regulations on carbon pollution for existing and new power plants.
  • Adopt clean construction requirements for all federally-funded construction projects.
  • Increase fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.