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Protecting Children from Climate Change

 

There is broad scientific consensus that the Earth's climate is warming rapidly and at an accelerated rate. Carbon pollution is a leading greenhouse gas contributing to climate change in the United States, and power plants are the nation's largest carbon pollution source, generating approximately one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas pollution.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 80 percent of the current health burden due to changing climate occurs in children younger than five years old. These health impacts include the broad effects of weather disasters, exacerbated allergic and asthmatic diseases, food and water insecurity, and heat-related deaths. As climate change accelerates, children will continue to suffer disproportionately.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a final rule as part of its Clean Power Plan, supported by the AAP, to reduce carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. When fully implemented in 2030, the Clean Power Plan will prevent 3,600 fewer premature deaths, 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, 300,000 fewer missed school and work days. The EPA rule will cut carbon emissions and generate public health benefits, while also allowing states the flexibility to use multiple tools and innovative options in their approaches to meeting the standard. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has stayed implementation of the law pending judicial consideration of a challenge to the Clean Power Plan. States may continue implementation but no longer have to. AAP has joined an amicus brief with other health professional associations supporting the Clean Power Plan.

Pediatricians will continue to advocate for strong federal actions to address the health impacts of climate change, and view implementation of standards to reduce carbon emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants as a crucial next step to protect children's health.

Additional Resources:

  • AAP press statement on the EPA's plan to reduce carbon emissions
  • Testimony from Jerome Paulson, MD, FAAP, immediate past chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health
  • An op-ed from Aparna Bole, MD, FAAP, member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health Executive Committee, "Clean Power Plan a good step toward healthy environment for children"
  • A post published on The Hill's Congress Blog by Samantha Ahdoot, MD, FAAP, member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health, "Through EPA rule, children can breathe cleaner air"
  • An AAP News Washington Column, "AAP takes on climate change from a child health perspective"
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