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Supreme Court Decision: Limit the EPA’s Authority to Regulate Climate Emissions

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By now you have read a lot about the Supreme Court decision to limit the EPA’s authority to regulate climate emissions. I cannot say I am shocked. 

One of our beliefs at Healthcare Climate ActionWorks is that the solution to climate change will not come from the international meetings, or from the federal government, or from the courts. The solutions to climate change will come from communities. Health systems  – which are the largest non-profit organization in virtually every community in the US – must take the lead. The Supreme Courts EPA ruling just further confirms that belief. 

What is shocking about the ruling? It is not about anything that the EPA has done.  The court took action – for the first time ever – on a non-event. There was no regulation in place for the court to review. The complainants got the Court to rule that the EPA cannot even try to regulate emissions. It just demonstrates the power of the fossil fuel industry to get what it wants. Another reason that health system’s need to take the lead.

And that is easy – because this is a health care issue. Xavier Becerra, HHS secretary said that this decision is  “a public health disaster.” 

That’s right. 

Climate Impact Lab has developed a lives saved calculator that uses a model of historical death records and localized temperature projections to generate estimate for the number of lives saved if emissions are eliminated. The number is very conservative because the analysis only looks at the risk from from extreme heat. It does not look at other climate impacts like flooding and strong storms. But even with it’s conservative approach if just  10 US states cut their emissions to net zero that would save 3.7 million lives worldwide. Texas alone could save 1.1 million lives.  Idaho is capable of saving about 68,000 lives, Kansas could save 126,000 lives and Hawaii could save about 16,000 lives.

And as I have said before, the health impacts come not just from climate change, they come from the particulate emissions that come from burning any fossil fuel. Those emissions kill over 8 million people EVERY YEAR. Smoking “only” kills 3 million. 

If you think that health systems, like doctors, should abide by the Hippocratic Oath to “first do no harm” – then health systems must eliminate their use of fossil fuels to stop harming people today with particulate emissions, and tomorrow with the impact of heat, drought, fires, storms, and floods. 

Now is not the time to complain about the Supreme Court – it is the time to take action to eliminate your health system’s emissions.


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