To protect our health, we must act on climate
© iStock

There is no denying it: climate change is one of the biggest public health threats facing our country and planet. From increased air pollution, to worsening extreme weather disasters, to greater risks for diseases, climate change impacts every aspect of our health and safety. Americans need action on climate change, and they need it now.

As doctors prior to joining Congress, we know firsthand how devastating the impacts of air pollution on our communities can be. We have cared for children and adults with asthma who are struggling to breathe. And we’ve seen the devastation that stronger hurricanes and more intense wildfires caused by climate change has wrought on families across the country. In addition to losing their homes, the air and water in these communities are often contaminated with dangerous pollution, which has lasting public health impacts for generations. These type of extreme weather events will become the norm if we do not take steps to fight climate change right now.

California and Washington state are no strangers to these devastating impacts of climate change. In Northern California, families are still picking up the pieces from the Camp Fire that devastated communities throughout the region in November. This fire – which was the deadliest wildfire our nation has seen in 100 years – claimed 56 lives, destroyed nearly 150,000 acres, and cost over $16 billion in damages. As the fire grew, so did the soot and ash in the air, with the San Francisco Bay Area suffering from some of the worst air quality in the world as a result. In Washington, wildfire risks are increasing as a result of climate change, placing communities across the state in danger. The state has already logged 50 wildfires for 2019 – an unusually high number for this early in the year, which could become the new normal if we don’t act on climate.

ADVERTISEMENT

The reality is that climate change and its impact on our health will only get worse if left unchecked. Climate change is expected to result in rising sea levels, which could damage the Sacramento delta and major coastal cities throughout the Bay Area. In Washington, climate change may push sea levels in Seattle up three feet by 2100, threatening communities around Puget Sound. Additionally, by 2050, California is projected to see more than 140 days each year with high wildfire potential, the greatest number of days among the lower 48 states. In Washington state, the wildfire threat could also worsen over the next 30 years. Furthermore, as climate change gets worse, mosquito growing seasons become longer, increasing the number of disease-carrying pests that will create even more health risks. We can’t afford to wait until our communities are at their breaking points before deciding that something must be done. By then, it will be too late.

One thing we do know is that reliance on dirty fossil fuels threatens the health of our families. At the same time, investing in solar, wind and other clean energy sources makes good economic sense, creating roughly 3.3 million jobs to date. We believe the federal government should be a good partner to the states, cities and businesses who are moving forward with advancing clean energy solutions that are good for our health and economy.

That is why Democrats in Congress are working to advance climate change solutions and the sound science that will protect the health and well-being of communities across our nation. We are encouraged by the action taken by House leadership to elevate addressing climate change as a caucus-wide priority. The newly-established Select Committee on Climate Change – tasked with examining solutions and suggesting legislative proposals that reduce carbon pollution – serves an essential function. What’s more, there have been over 15 hearings in the House dedicated to climate change since House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) took the gavel in January.

We are troubled by our Republican colleagues’ refusal to take bold action to address the impacts of climate change. To make matters worse, they’re supporting the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back and dismantle the lifesaving climate and public health protections that are already in place. We should be doing everything we can to protect Americans, especially the 26 million who suffer from asthma, but gutting protections like the Clean Power Plan, the clean car standards, methane pollution protections, and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards takes us in the opposite direction. These rollbacks from President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration denies permit for controversial Pebble Mine | Progressives see red flags in regulatory official on Biden transition team | EPA won't require industry to guarantee funding for toxic waste cleanups EPA won't require industry to guarantee funding for toxic waste cleanups OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry says Paris climate deal alone 'is not enough' | EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler| EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds MORE – a former coal lobbyist – will leave more dangerous pollution in our communities and set climate progress back for generations to come. What’s more, Wheeler recently went on national television and claimed that climate change is a distant problem, one that won’t be felt for 50 to 75 years. He couldn’t be more wrong.

As members of Congress we took an oath to protect and defend. Part of that oath is to keep our constituents safe and healthy. That is why we are speaking out against the toxic agenda coming from the Trump administration and fighting for climate solutions. We took an oath as doctors to do no harm. Standing idly by as Trump and Wheeler attack lifesaving protections that help fight climate change and dangerous pollution would break that oath. We hope all Americans, regardless of party, will join us in the fight against climate change. The future of this Earth depends on it. 

Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraHillicon Valley: Judge's ruling creates fresh hurdle for TikTok | House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks | Biden campaign urges Facebook to remove Trump posts spreading 'falsehoods' House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks The Hill's Coronavirus Report: iBIO Chairman and CEO Thomas Isett says developing a safe vaccine is paramount; US surpasses 150,000 coronavirus deaths with roughy one death per minute MORE, M.D. represents California’s 7th District, and Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierRep. Kim Schrier defends Washington House seat from GOP challenger House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall Pelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief MORE, M.D. represents Washington’s 8th District.