When I get in the car to take my son to school in the morning, I’m usually thinking about whether he has everything he needs and how close we will be to on time today.
I don’t stop to think about how my driving impacts the environment, the economy—or even my family’s health. Living in California, after all, I don’t have much of a choice about driving places, unless I had many more hours in the day than I do.
But what are the impacts of driving? What choices do I have? And how might the environment, the economy, and my family’s health benefit as a result of cleaner choices?
A new report, released yesterday by the Environmental Defense Fund and the American Lung Association in California, offers encouraging news. Driving California Forward reveals that by 2025, implementing the state’s transportation fuels policies under its landmark climate law — AB32, will:
- Save the lives of 900 Californians
- Prevent 38,000 asthma attacks, 600 heart attacks, and 640 hospitalizations
- Eliminate 74,000 days of lost work due to health-related problems
- Make California more energy-secure by reducing its dependency on fossil fuels by 4.5 billion gallons a year — much of which now comes from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other countries
- Cut the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change by a 165 million metric tons
- Save over $23 billion through the prevention of health care costs, improved energy security, and reduction of climate-related expenses
On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown said that California is at the “epicenter” of global warming and other climate change — with the doubling of forest fires, rising sea levels, and drought. And what affects California, of course, affects the nation, as the state is, among other things, the primary grower of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
AB32, which was signed into law in 2006 incentivizes one of the most important solutions to addressing climate change, and other forms of air pollution: the transition to a clean, renewable energy future. Its mandate reduces emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — or about 25 percent statewide — through policies that increase the use of wind, solar, and other renewables.
Public support for such measures is high, with 65 percent of Californians calling for immediate action on climate change, according to a 2013 survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.
This should, perhaps, not come as a surprise — as nearly 80 percent of Californians live in counties affected by unhealthy air, according to the American Lung Association’s 2014 State of the Air report.
Two of the populations particularly at risk are Latinos and children. Latinos have a higher risk of asthma, heart disease, and other consequences of unhealthy air because many live in Los Angeles and the Central Valley – home to some of the dirtiest air in the nation.
Research has shown that children and infants are particularly vulnerable because air pollution can negatively affect their developing biological systems, including the brain, lungs, and immune system.
In the face of these serious and costly challenges affecting families in California and across the nation, the Environmental Defense Fund and American Lung Association of California’s new report provides welcome news.
“The facts show that California’s transportation fuels policies are effectively cutting pollution and protecting consumers,” said Tim O’Connor, Director of California Climate for the Environmental Defense Fund. “This report shines a light on why these policies are paramount to improving air quality and saving billions of dollars in state healthcare costs. It’s what Californians have asked for and what they deserve.”