Thursday, January 03, 2008

Health Hazards of Global Warming

With attention focused on Iowa, with even Jay Leno entertaining us with Mike Huckabee when he ran out of jokes, little attention is being paid to stories that will have much more far reaching consequences.

One of those stories is the report in the Sacramento Bee concerning a new study of the Health Consequences of Global Warming released by Stanford Univ.
Vehicle and power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the predominant climate-altering gas, are estimated to cause 1,000 additional deaths and many more cases of respiratory disease every year in the United States for each degree Celsius of temperature rise in the Earth's atmosphere, according to the Stanford study.

The bulk of those deaths - an estimated 300 - are occurring in California cities already socked with smog, said Mark Jacobson, a Stanford environmental engineering professor who led the study.
This is really a major issue for many. It does not fall on the urban power centers of this state: Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego. Rather, its effect are more strongly felt in the Central Valley where we have 5 of the worst cities in the country in terms of air quality: Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, Merced and Sacramento, according to the SacBee report.

What that report does not say is that politics plays a very important role in how we deal with these facts. I received a recent email from Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla concerning those very differences. Barbara is the Campaign Director for Restore the Delta and the force behind their "Health Delta Communities" programs. Barbara wrote
"Kate, my five-year-old, developed walking pneumonia, then full-blown pneumonia, and severe asthma problems starting all on the 19th."
That is only a reference point for how serious this situation is for her family. The politics behind this is very much a power game, as Barbara made clear later in her note:
...why does the SJ Valley Air Pollution Control Board permit wood burning on moderate air quality days, when the Sacramento Valley restricts burning on those days? It seems that wood burning in our neighborhood is a major trigger for Kate, even though I am keeping her indoors. Her pediatrician at Kaiser says this is a major problem for asthma kids in Stockton.
This personalizes the facts. A 2006 study by California State University - Fullerton let us know just how gargantuan this problem really is. It costs California $3 Billion per year. There are thousands of families like Barbara's in the San Joaquin Valley and thousands of children like Kate.

The San Joaquin Valley would love for you to think that the primary cause of their ail pollution is from automobiles. That simply is not true. A much greater amount comes from agriculture. Methane from dairy operations is significant. So is the dust from discing; so are the pesticides from aerial spraying. No single source accounts for more than 35% of the air pollution. Yet, any attempt to increase regulation in the valley meets with stiff opposition from all levels of the body politic, right up to Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Visalia, CA-21).

His August, 2007 press release, New domestic energy production and air quality improvements the focus of Nunes legislation, is an example of his absolutely delusional propaganda. Other than this title, then entire release is about Coal Liquefaction, one of the worst technology solutions that gullible, scientifically challenged Congress Critters are talking about, but Nunes has no qualms in telling his constituents that this dirty technology will solve their air quality problems.
"Coal liquefaction has been proven as a viable fuel for decades. With today’s improvements in technology, we can produce domestic energy and improve environmental outcomes at the same time. This fuel would be particularly beneficial in the Central Valley of California, as we seek to address ongoing air quality challenges," said Rep. Nunes.
The counter argument comes from David Hawkins, Director of the Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council. In testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, April 2006, Hawkins gave a very different picture of the processes.
The impacts that a large coal-to-liquids program could have on global warming pollution,
conventional air pollution and damage from expanded coal production are substantial.
Before deciding whether to invest scores, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars in a new industry like coal-to-liquids, we need a much more serious assessment of whether this is an industry that should proceed at all.

I would give Nunes a Climate Change Cretin award, except Oklahoma Senator Inhofe seems to win that every year.

More importantly, is we are are to truly reduce the costs of Health Care, especially for those least able to afford it, we have to address Air Quality. Some can keep their children indoors when air quality is bad. Those who can't afford health care may not be able to afford air conditioning in the summer either. Maybe they have to use wood for fuel because they can no longer deal with the rising cost to heat their homes in the winter We can not separate all of these problems into neat compartments and decide what solutions we need in a vacuum. We can not solve our health care crises now without addressing air quality. We won't be able to so do in the future unless we address climate change. We can not separate issues of social justice from the environment is we are going to have a future.

Five year old Kate Parrilla needs all of us to go to work for her. We need to get rid of bloviating demagogues like Devin Nunes. We need to make Schwarzenegger's new Queen of Air Quality do her job and forget about trading carbon credits. It there were ever a situation that cries out for the values of this Green Party to be implemented as policy, this is it. If we want to prove our abilities to practice governance, we need to be challenging the power structure of the San Joaquin Valley, to be "speaking truth to power", to become the agents of change that the Obama's of this world promise to be, but never will while still supporting environmentally destructive, unhealthy, unClean Coal and Ethanol from Corn for the sake of a few additional votes.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Greening LA: a mayoral report card