After all, that’s what responsible people do.And Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) is wrong, as a letter sent to him today by 31 environmental, health, faith, women’s and latino groups, including NRDC Action Fund, makes clear.
On April 6th, Brown voted in support of a proposal that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from reducing carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases.
A few weeks later, the League of Women Voters ran hard-hitting ads against Senator Brown and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who voted for a similar measure. As I’ve mentioned before, the ads portray an asthmatic child with a breathing mask to emphasize the health damage caused by carbon pollution. But Scott Brown didn’t want Massachusetts voters to realize he’d voted for a bill that if enacted would endanger kids with asthma, as my colleague Heather Taylor-Miesle discussed.
Brown has been battering the League of Women Voters for weeks now, claiming that his vote has nothing to do with children or health. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he wrote in the Boston Herald of the League’s ad connecting his vote to children’s health.
But Senator Brown is wrong.
As the letter notes, the EPA warns that warming temperatures due to carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution will “worsen regional ground-level ozone pollution” and that “Exposure to ground level ozone has been linked to respiratory health problems ranging from decreased lung function and aggravated asthma to increased emergency department visits, hospital admissions, and even premature death.”
EPA isn’t the only group that says carbon dioxide and warming temperatures are a public health threat, including respiratory disease like asthma. Here’s a short list of who else does:
- Dr. Georges Benjamin, the head of the American Public Health Association told reporters in February that “Climate change can lead to extreme weather events, putting the health of elderly, sick and vulnerable populations at greater risk. It can lead to increased air pollution, which is linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.”
- The American Medical Association editorialized on the health effects of climate change in April, saying “Rising air and water temperatures and rising ocean levels since the late 1960s have increased the severity of weather, including hurricanes and droughts, and the production of ground-level ozone. That means more asthma and respiratory illnesses, more heat stroke and exhaustion, and exacerbation of chronic conditions such as heart disease.”
- The American Lung Association says that “Scientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient ozone levels. Higher temperatures can enhance the conditions for ozone formation. Even with the steps that are in place to reduce ozone, evidence warns that changes in climate are likely to increase ozone levels in the future in large parts of the United States…. Breathing ozone may lead to serious harm to health, including . . . increased risk of asthma attacks; and increased need for medical treatment and hospitalization for people with lung diseases, such as asthma . . . ”
- Over 70 national and state-level health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics , the Children’s Environmental Health Network and the American Nurses Association, sent members of Congress – including Scott Brown – a letter stating that “Climate change is a serious public health issue. As temperatures rise, more Americans will be exposed to conditions that can result in illness and death due to respiratory illness, heat- and weather-related stress and disease carried by insects. These health issues are likely to have the greatest impact on our most vulnerable communities, including children . . . The latest assessment from the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) . . . states that “’There are direct health impacts from heat waves and severe storms, ailments caused or exacerbated by air pollution and airborne allergens, and many climate-sensitive infectious diseases.’”
- The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s scientific journal published a peer-reviewed paper which spelled the connection out exceptionally clearly: “If current emissions and land use trends continue unchecked, the next generations will face more injury, disease, and death related to natural disasters and heat waves, higher rates of climate-related infections, and wide-spread malnutrition, as well as more allergic and air pollution–related morbidity and mortality. This review highlights links between global climate change and anticipated increases in prevalence and severity of asthma and related allergic disease mediated through worsening ambient air pollution and altered local and regional pollen production.”
- Dr. Perry Sheffield, a pediatrician and environmental health specialist from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, has also explained the connection: “Higher temperatures can mean more smog; more smog makes children with asthma sicker, and increases the number of children with asthma.”
More smog is only part of the story. A growing body of research is also demonstrating that rising carbon dioxide levels are stimulating more pollen from a variety of plants. Pollen is a well-known asthma trigger and irritant.
Senator Brown, as a father of two, I’m sure you teach your kids how to be responsible, including that mature people admit when they are wrong. In this case, the facts are clear and you are wrong. You should do the responsible thing and admit it.