Bad Obama Ozone Decision May Spell Trouble for Wildlife
The Obama Administration’s recent announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency will not strengthen the ozone or smog standard is of little consolation to parents who have to rush their asthmatic kids to the hospital emergency room on dirty air days or the runner who wants to reach his top performance on the track on hot summer days. While the rule is being delayed, ozone is not. Ozone has not gone away. Contrary to polluter claims that ozone pollution helps the economy, NWF has found that allergies and asthma, which are worsened by ozone, already cost nearly $33 billion a year in health care services and lost productivity.
All of this has wildlife lovers wondering if halting the ozone rule is a precedent for other anti-pollution efforts in the works that impact BOTH people and nature.
For a while now, EPA has been gearing up to tackle climate change through a rule that would reduce carbon pollution from coal plants and other stationary sources. There will likely be a massive polluter campaign to smear the rule as economically harmful.
In 2009, EPA found that carbon dioxide and five other gases endanger peoples’ health and the environment, a conclusion that acknowledges the need to act. This finding was backed by most scientists and confirmed that human activities like burning coal are creating unacceptably high levels of pollution that are warming and changing the planet’s climate.
Delays Put Wildlife on the Line
The longer we delay curbing greenhouse gas emissions, the more we threaten wildlife and the planet’s biological health. The evidence is mounting up. As Arctic ice disappears, polar bear habitat and feeding areas vanish. Shrinking sea ice is the single biggest threat to polar bears, say experts. Polar bears hunt, breed and in some cases, den on sea ice. Without ice, polar bears cannot reach their prey.
“Climate Change May Doom Wisconsin Fish” read an August 22 headline when University of Wisconsin scientists estimated that the cisco, a cold water fish and important food source for many of Wisconsin’s game fish, could disappear from most of the state’s lakes by 2100 because of warming. Warmer streams also put trout at risk. (See NWFs excellent “Game Changers” report for more on this).
And some species could face extinction, especially those that have very specialized habitats, like birds that live at high elevations or moose that thrive in cool climates. They’ll have no place to go.
Global warming is a threat to waterfowl, a 2007 National Wildlife Federation study reported, because prairie pothole breeding areas could dry up, and some will find less shallow-water habitat in their traditional breeding areas because of sea level rise.
Some animals and plants cannot adapt fast enough to survive in warmer temperatures.
Extreme Weather, Extremely Bad for Business
Greenhouse gas concentrations are one of the triggers of more extreme weather, most authorities maintain, like some of the weather we’ve seen this year — tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, flooding, heat waves and heavy precipitation. “Global warming is driving increased frequency of extreme wet or dry summer weather in southeast, so droughts and deluges are likely to get worse,” reported a 2010 Duke University study. An NWF report earlier this year also sounded the alarm. Weather-related disruptions cost the country $17 billion a year on average from 1960-2005.
Major weather-related power outages have increased by a factor of 10 to 20 since the early 1990s. Hurricanes can leave millions of people without power. Oil, gas and other energy infrastructure is at risk during big weather events. Power disruptions are not just inconvenient; they can cost businesses, government and people big bucks.
Moving to a clean energy economy would not only help curb greenhouse gases, it could create millions of new jobs in our anemic economy. Appeasing the polluter lobby and the Congressional skeptics will not bring the political, environment or economic solutions we all need. Let’s hope the Administration does not cave again.
For more information, fact sheets and to take action, visit NWF’s clean air page.