How Illi­nois can com­bat cli­mate change by em­brac­ing re­new­able en­ergy now

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - D. Kyle Hog­a­rth, MD, FCCP Pro­fes­sor of Pul­monary Medicine Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Send let­ters to let­ters@sun­times.com.

This sum­mer marks the 25th an­niver­sary of Chicago’s 1995 heat wave. The death toll from that wave has kept the city on edge as it has faced more record-break­ing high tem­per­a­tures. This July, Chicago ex­pe­ri­enced five more days over 90 de­grees than av­er­age. As cli­mate change pro­gresses, these record tem­per­a­ture streaks will only con­tinue to in­crease.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion in­di­cates ex­treme heat di­rectly af­fects health by in­creas­ing rates of heat stroke and de­hy­dra­tion, and car­dio­vas­cu­lar, res­pi­ra­tory, and cere­brovas­cu­lar disease. Heat also makes air harder to breathe by in­creas­ing ground level ozone or “smog,” trans­lat­ing to higher rates of res­pi­ra­tory disease like asthma, car­dio­vas­cu­lar disease and com­pli­ca­tions from both.

Poor air qual­ity is es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous now given that it is linked to higher rates of COVID-19 deaths, ac­cord­ing to the Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health. The com­mu­ni­ties hard­est hit by COVID-19 are com­mu­ni­ties of color that are also the hottest and most pol­luted. This can­not con­tinue. We need an ef­fec­tive way to com­bat cli­mate change that pri­or­i­tizes vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions. This is why we need to pass the Clean En­ergy Jobs Act (CEJA) now.

CEJA will tran­si­tion Illi­nois to 100% re­new­able en­ergy by 2050, im­me­di­ately re­duc­ing pol­lu­tion from the trans­porta­tion and power plant sec­tors. This will ben­e­fit vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties hit hard­est by this pol­lu­tion. By mit­i­gat­ing cli­mate change, CEJA will lessen long-term im­pacts of our warm­ing planet, in­clud­ing the health im­pacts of se­vere heat and wors­en­ing air qual­ity.

CEJA also pri­or­i­tizes eco­nomic in­vest­ment in com­mu­ni­ties hit hard­est by these health im­pacts by in­creas­ing eq­ui­table ac­cess to clean en­ergy ca­reers and re­quir­ing clean en­ergy com­pa­nies are com­mit­ted to eq­ui­table job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Illi­nois can take swift ac­tion on cli­mate change and its in­equitable im­pacts. CEJA must be passed now.

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