Denver Public Health Roundtable Targets Fossil Fuel Emissions

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A Denver public health roundtable held on June 23 addressed the issue of fossil fuel emissions, climate change, and public health.

This timely roundtable, hosted by Environment Colorado and  held at the University of Denver, brought together a sampling of Colorado state legislators and national governmental representatives to discuss expected health impacts attributable to the adverse effects of climate change.

Attending this event were US EPA Region 8 administrator Laura Farris, US HHS Region 8 administrator Kim Gillan, Boulder Community Health sustainability coordinator Kai Abelkis, Health Hospitals Initiative registered nurse Julie Moyle, Colorado state senator Matt Jones, Colorado House assistant majority leader Dominick Moreno, and Colorado state representative Max Tyler.

greenhouse gas emissions chart 2012ghg-sources
Total U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Economic Sector in 2012

From a national government perspective, the Obama administration has linked climate change to human health, saying unchecked greenhouse gas pollution could cause 57,000 deaths a year by 2100 from bad air and 12,000 from extreme temperatures.

“The changing climate that we’re causing is an existential threat,” said Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, assessing the health threat.

The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency have unveiled a report that addresses the impacts of climate change, including billions of dollars damage annually from wildfires, flooding, and drought.

EPA Clean Power Plan

On June 2, the EPA proposed a plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants, pointing to states, cities, and businesses already taking action to address the risks of climate change. The EPA’s proposal addresses the important role of states as full partners with the federal government in cutting pollution. This proposal targets maintaining an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting health and environment now and for future generations.

Health Impacts of Climate Change

Kim Gillan, US HHS Region 8 administrator, said over 150 datasets on climate change are now being made available. US Health and Human Services officials plan to work with state and local agencies, “making sure they understand the important connection between public health and the climate,” said Gillan.

Coal Emissions & Health

In targeting coal-fired power plant emissions, the EPA is trying to cut US greenhouse gases to 30% below 2005 levels within 15 years.

The perceived higher cost of instituting clean energy policies has been a long-standing roadblock to initiating environmental changes. This might change when the discussion shifts to the issue of health. “One of the strongest tools you will have is talking about the health effects,” said Colorado state representative Max Tyler.

Health workers now indicate they encounter a variety of negative health impacts now occurring, such as increased asthma. “The good news is the healthcare industry is getting it,” said Kai Abelkis, Sustainability Coordinator, Boulder Community Health.

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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

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