This is an op-ed I wrote that originally published on Cleveland.com:
For some, climate change is just another political football. But for me, as a mom, it’s about much more than that — it’s about fighting for a clean, healthy environment for our kids. Climate change is affecting our kids’ health and it’s happening right in our backyards.
As a soccer coach, I see children who are robbed of their childhood joys as they sit on the sidelines of another game because their asthma has made it impossible for them to participate. The worry on the faces of parents and the struggle in the eyes of the child is more than enough for me to question if we are doing enough to improve our air quality in Ohio.
Ohio families are vulnerable to climate-related health threats from worsening air quality, extreme heat, extreme precipitation and flooding, and greater exposure to dangerous diseases. For this reason, I believe we must take action now to ensure a healthy climate for our children and grandchildren.
Let me explain. Air pollution is a well-known contributor to chronic respiratory diseases, and a trigger for asthma attacks.
Carbon pollution makes things worse because rising temperatures, along with greater air stagnation and other climate effects, increase ground-level ozone smog. People with asthma or chronic respiratory disease are especially vulnerable to the harmful health effects of ozone smog, which makes it harder to get a lungful of air.
Today, 1.9 million Ohioans suffer from asthma or chronic respiratory disease, and as many as 228,000 of those impacted are children.
But the statistics don’t fully capture climate change’s far-reaching effects on our quality of life and productivity, in addition to our health. For example, asthma alone is estimated to cause kids around the country to miss 10 million days of school every year.
Some of those children spend those days in emergency rooms struggling to breathe, some spend them in the doctor’s office as better treatments are explored, and of course, parents have to take time away from work as well.
There are many reasons to fight climate change — including strong economic incentives to shift toward clean energy — but none matters more for the future of our communities than the health and well-being of our kids.
I feel a major responsibility to sound the alarm about carbon pollution and climate change — not as a political commentator, or someone seeking political office, but as a parent who believes that the greatest inheritance we can leave our children is the gift of a clean, healthy environment. And I know I am not alone. There are a lot of moms and dads just like me who think that we can’t just leave this problem to our children and their children to solve.
There are immediate steps we can take to help our kids — and power plants are the obvious place to begin, because they are the single biggest source of carbon pollution in the United States.
It’s simple common sense — there are limits on how much arsenic, mercury and soot pollution power plants can dump into the air; it’s time we limit carbon pollution, too.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has laid out a plan in which Ohio and other states would figure out the smartest way to cut carbon emissions from their power plants. It’s the biggest step our country has ever taken to address this problem.
The health benefits of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan are clear and well-documented. A recent report from Harvard found that, in Ohio alone, reducing carbon pollution from power plants could prevent 2,800 deaths, 760 hospitalizations, and 180 heart attacks.
Despite its clear benefits to Ohio, the Clean Power Plan has come under attack from interest groups, and some elected officials are misguidedly seeking to block its implementation. Ohio’s own Sen. Rob Portman, in fact, is leading the charge against clean air in Congress. Unfortunately, he’s spearheading legislation to block the Clean Power Plan, and allow power plants in Ohio to keep dumping unlimited amounts of dangerous carbon pollution into our air.
We cannot remain quiet while Senator Portman’s Polluter Protection Proposal puts our children and future generations at risk.
That’s why Moms Clean Air Force is officially calling out Sen. Portman for refusing to protect Ohio’s children and families. We are moms who have chosen to use our voices to speak out against Sen. Portman’s position on the Clean Power Plan because we believe it is bad for the Buckeye State.
I hope that other everyday Ohioans — parents, teachers, and community leaders — will do the same. By working together on a cause we know to be just and crucial to the future of our communities, we can — and we will — make a difference.