The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, recently released a report ranking Chicago as the sixth “sneeziest and wheeziest” city in the United States of America. The study further explores how carbon emissions and the intensifying effects of climate change affect allergies and asthma.
At its root, the paper calls for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to bolster President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a piece of legislation which calls for a thirty percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The EPA concludes that this measure should be strengthened and finalized.
The coal industry has responded with vitriol. As a counterargument this negative response, the report confirms aggravated health concerns in the country related to climate change. Specifically, it examines how the presence of ragweed relates to detrimental ozone levels, pulling rom data provided by previous EPA research, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a 2014 report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
The paper concludes that Chicago suffers from both unhealthy ozone and pollen levels. Warmer temperatures increase the levels of ozone in the atmosphere, which provides ample opportunity for ragweed to thrive in these areas of concentrated carbon dioxide. This has lead to Chicago becoming home to a relatively high death rate for asthma and similar respiratory ailments because ozone and pollen levels directly harm people with asthma.
Therefore, the report calls for stricter standards to limit carbon pollution from their largest source, power plants, to protect public health. Naturally, the coal industry and power providers have attempted to push back, whining that even current legislation is an overreach of federal authority. However, the government has a clear and direct responsibility to protect the citizenry. Representative democracy needs elected officials to champion their constituents, not corporate profits. The EPA is correct to demand that we all have the right to breath a little easier.