Commentary: Putting a price on carbon buys a healthier state

By Francine Gaillour and Jeanine SanClemente

While the current federal administration has pledged to backtrack on climate change mitigation and lift regulations on dangerous air pollutants as part of its “America First” agenda, Washington state has an opportunity to lead the country by taking action against climate change.

In fact, the Legislature is considering bills that would price carbon and reduce emissions right now. We think it is imperative that the Legislature pass a climate change mitigation plan this year.

Let’s step back and look at why this is so important. As a physician and an educator, we are familiar with the impact greenhouse gases are having on our atmosphere because we see it in our work. According to the National Institutes of Health, environmental consequences of climate change, such as extreme heat waves, changes in precipitation resulting in flooding and droughts, forest fires, intense storms and degraded air quality affect the physical, social and psychological health of humans.

The World Health Organization reports that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress. In Washington state, we are not immune to the impacts. Carbon dioxide emissions and related local air and water pollution cause asthma, respiratory disease and cancer. Wildfires damage our economy and endanger our rural communities.

Our children are particularly vulnerable. Children with asthma or respiratory diseases are more likely to miss school and have ongoing health challenges, which can set them back for their entire lives. Our children should have the right to grow up in a world without these grave risks.

As mothers, we feel particularly compelled to speak up on climate change. Our kids will have to live in a world shaped by their parents’ and grandparents’ actions. We started local climate action groups, Mothers Out Front Puget Sound and Physicians Climate Action Collaborative, to compel our state to make a swift, just and complete transition to renewable fuels. We want to create a livable world for all children.

Our groups are calling on state lawmakers to take decisive action on climate change this year. We are part of a 30-group coalition, ACT NOW, that wants to see Washington show the nation how to lead on climate change by passing comprehensive climate change mitigation legislation.

A price on carbon is an efficient way to get started. By charging corporate polluters for their emissions, we can accelerate clean energy, cut pollution and do so without complicated new regulations. Republicans and Democrats have both supported pricing carbon as an effective way to fight climate change. The only thing missing right now is the courage to consider our children and to pass legislation that protects their future.

If you agree that the Legislature should act now on climate change, join us in writing or calling your representatives to demand action.

Dr. Francine Gaillour is a physician and founder of Physicians Climate Action Collaborative Jeanine SanClemente has a doctorate in educational psychology and is the Puget Sound Coordinator for Mothers Out Front.

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