From June Blotnick, executive director of Clean Air Carolina, in response to Charlotte heading to a clean air milestone (Sept. 2):
As any stockbroker knows, past results and even current trends are no guarantee of future performance. I was reminded of this while reading Bruce Hendersons recent article about Charlottes low ozone levels this summer. North Carolinas cooler, wetter summer of 2013 was truly an anomaly: last year broke numerous records for high temperatures, low rainfall and extreme weather events across the state and around the country.
A year ago it was difficult to imagine that Charlotte could experience an entire summer without a single Code Orange ozone day. In 2012, the American Lung Association ranked Charlotte in the top 20 of Americas most ozone-polluted cities. But thanks to decades of efforts by clean air advocates, seminal environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and an unusually cool summer, it was possible for our citys ozone levels to remain below unhealthy levels for an entire summer season.
Unfortunately, decades of progress towards better air quality may be set back by HB 74, a law recently signed by Gov. Pat McCrory. HB 74 requires agencies to review environmental policies every 10 years without providing any additional financial resources to do so, essentially crippling these agencies and making it more likely important protections will expire. Unlike earlier environmental policies designed to protect public health and our environment, the deregulation begun in this years state legislative session will leave some of our most sensitive groups vulnerable to the impacts of worsening air and water quality. Millions of children and adults in North Carolina suffer from asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
Its impossible to predict the short-term variations that will affect next summers weather. However, long-term climatic trends confirm that with steadily increasing global temperatures, we will certainly face drier and hotter summers.
We cant just relax our rules or our vigilance because we experienced one summer without a Code Orange day. We must continue to support efforts to reduce sources of air and climate pollution such as those the Environmental Protection Agency is considering. These rules will provide a critical first piece in implementing President Barack Obamas longterm Climate Action Plan and can help ensure Charlotte experiences more summers without numerous poor air quality days.
By investing just $4 billion to cut one quarter of the carbon pollution emitted by Americas power plants by 2020, Americans could benefit from $26 to $60 billion in saved lives, reduced illnesses, and climate change costs avoided. While we can be grateful for a cool Carolina summer with few bad air days, we should also remember that much of the Midwest and West has been experiencing major drought conditions fueling catastrophic wildfires. In this new normal of climate change, we cant afford to throw the dice with the weather, hoping each year that our luck wont run out.
The public supports and demands that local, state and federal policymakers take significant steps to drastically reduce carbon emissions to ensure a healthy economy and a healthy future. The risks and costs are too great to ignore in a warming world.
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