After much wrangling, the Senate passed momentous climate legislation. The Inflation Reduction Act is
designed to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, impose penalties on those who emit excess methane, and to fund cleanup of polluted sites. Using a combination of tax credits and direct funding, the Inflation Reduction Act incentivizes the public to expand their use of alternative and more efficient energy, like electric cars, electric HVAC systems and electric stoves. Funding is available for restorative agriculture, forest expansion, and coastal restoration. According to several economic analyses, this act will reduce our fossil fuel pollution by 40% by 2030 (using 2005 as baseline), moving the U.S. closer to its targeted goal of cutting pollution in half within the decade.
So how does the Inflation Reduction Act impact our health?
In addition to funding the Affordable Care Act and prescription drug reform, the climate initiatives have major health implications. Through a mix of tax breaks that will bring down the costs of non-fossil fuel energies (solar, wind, batteries, cars, heat pumps, and other clean technology), the goal is to reform two of the heaviest-polluting sectors: transportation and electricity generation. Reducing the use of fossil fuels improves air quality. Improving air quality directly affects the exacerbation of lung diseases, like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well heart diseases and opportunities to exercise which can reduce obesity and diabetes. Better air quality is especially important for older adults and children, who are often more distressed by poor air conditions.
Another way air quality would be changed is by addressing the second-most abundant greenhouse gas, methane. Methane is far more powerful (80 times) than carbon dioxide and leaks from any oil or gas production, through drilling at a wellhead, compressor stations or liquefied natural gas terminals. As a large fracking state, Pennsylvania has an abundance of these sites. The Inflation Reduction Act would set industry limits on methane leakage and if companies exceed those limits, penalties would be imposed. This provision is intended to encourage companies to cap wells or reduce methane venting. Through these limits and penalties, the potential to improve air quality is significant, reducing many of the symptoms associated with methane exposure. The combination of capping wells and limiting methane leaks are key strategies PSR PA has advocated to improve the health of Pennsylvanians.
The Act addresses environmental justice issues affecting low income and communities of color. Funding for clean energy solutions, emission reductions, resilience weatherization, and restoration of space due to divided highways, will help the communities most crushed by pollution to reclaim their environments and the communities and provide opportunities to advance health issues. Is this Act perfect? No, it has flaws like how emission reduction is calculated and drilling for oil and natural gas on public lands. Its lack of bi-partisan support also reflects the money and power interests in government. Despite these issues, the Act is far better than previous legislation.
The Inflation Reduction Act is a landmark legislative effort. Since climate change poses the greatest
threat to planetary health, this Act serves as a start to decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels,
increasing the use of energy alternatives, and providing funds to realize environmental justice. We need
your help to support efforts to decrease climate effects on health, including clean air and water, and
Call to Action: What can you do?
Educate yourself, your colleagues and the people you work with about how and why climate influences health (see PSR PA’s OCAREER);
Advocate to strengthen regulations that protect air and water quality that will change the consequence of climate on health;
Develop practices that promote sustainability and lessen climate changes.
Your health, our health, and the health of the planet depends on us expanding efforts to prevent
climate’s health effects. Never miss an opportunity to talk and act about climate change.