Newly Passed IRA Puts Climate On the Ballot This November
In a historic moment, the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act and the largest climate investment in US history. Credit and blame are not hard to assess: passage was only made possible because all 50 Senate Democrats voted in favor of the bill, leaving Vice President Harris’s tie-breaking vote to make the difference. Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted in favor of it. As wildfires and extreme heat have enveloped the nation this summer, the narrow passage of this legislation is a keen reminder that electing leaders who will not ignore the threat of climate change is critically important.
Climate change is a public health emergency that is finally being recognized for the true threat it is. Extreme heat is the number one weather-related killer in the US. The wildfires that have so far burned 5.6 million acres are also spreading pollutants like particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and 10, which are particularly dangerous for those with underlying chronic respiratory diseases.
10 Tampa Bay: Heat is the #1 weather-related killer in the US, July 27, 2022.
13 On Your Side: Heat: A Silent Killer, June 16, 2022.
40/29 News: Report | Heat danger greater than initially thought, July 21, 2022.
CDC: How Climate Change Affects Community Health, July 9, 2018.
While most Americans believe in the harmful impacts of climate change, less than half believe that climate affects them personally. Part of this disconnect may stem from the harms of climate change disproportionately falling on certain populations more than others.
But the health effects of climate change are universal. With higher pollen counts and toxic air pollutants, the sniffling and sneezing from allergies are only worsening. Each year another 600-700 people die from cardiovascular complications due to extreme heat. Destructive flooding, like the recent disaster in Kentucky, is known to cause higher anxiety levels and post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, decreased water quality due to heavy downpours and rising temperatures have increased outbreaks of diarrheal diseases.
ABC: Flood alert for 15 million Americans l GMA, August 22, 2022.
NBC: Climate Change Effects Are Forcing More Americans to Move, August 15, 2022.
ProPublica: How the Climate Crisis Will Force A Massive American Migration, November 10, 2020.
Despite these clear adverse health effects and the intensity of climate concerns among key demographics like young people, climate change remains ranked last (tied with US-Russian relations) among major election concerns. That said, for this year’s midterm elections, Americans are focused on the economy and inflation, leaving it to Democrats to connect the dots between climate change and those issues and defining climate as an economic threat everywhere across the country.
With Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, 41% of inflation is attributable to fossil fuels. Last year natural disasters cost the US a whopping $145 billion. With rising sea levels, severe weather events, and extreme heat, the US GDP could shrink by 10% within 30 years. American health care costs due to fossil fuel-generated pollution and climate change total a staggering $820 billion each year. The economy and health care are inextricably linked to climate change, and the cost of inaction increases yearly.
Democracy Now: Inflation Reduction Act "Biggest Step Forward" on Climate, Says Biden Amid Calls for Renewables, August 17, 2022.
Grantham Imperial: Dr Friederike Otto speaks to BBC World News about the heatwaves, 18 July 2022, July 19, 2022.
TED: Fossil fuel companies know how to stop global warming. Why don't they? | Myles Allen, December 4, 2020.
By setting aside $300 billion for climate and energy proposals that include tax credits for electric vehicles and major investments in transportation and energy generation, the Inflation Reduction Act could help lower greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2005 levels by 2030. Research has shown that this decrease in emissions could prevent millions of premature deaths, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and lost workdays. This is why voting in the midterm elections is so critical. Our long-term economic and physical health demand we vote for candidates who will prioritize climate policy.
Choosing our elected leaders at the local, state, and federal levels is even more crucial to the climate fight since the Supreme Court’s hamstringing of the EPA’s authority. There’s even more that can be done, too. Volunteering with the Environmental Voter Project helps to transform inactive environmentalists into consistent voters. The League of Conservation Voters offers a national environmental scorecard that holds members of Congress accountable for their support, or lack thereof, for climate-relevant bills and amendments. Even health care workers can help their patients to register to vote through Vot-ER, an organization dedicated to civic health.
During my ten years of medical training, I did not consider how our climate’s future would mean taking care of my patients' health in new ways beyond the clinic’s doors. But with our country’s collective health at stake, we cannot afford to ignore this year’s elections. We need to elect leaders who will vote for climate policy and give us a fighting, lasting chance at a healthy, sustainable future. Let’s fight for that at the ballot box this November.
BBC: Past seven years hottest on record, EU satellite data shows, January 10, 2022.
HEI State of Global Air: Air Pollution & Climate Change | The Impacts on Global Health, December 8, 2021.
WW0: Climate and Health Are Connected, January 26, 2021.