Last week, President Obama shared an old proverb with an audience in Nairobi, Kenya: "We have not inherited this land from our forebears; we have borrowed it from our children."
There are many reasons to be committed to taking care of our environment, but as a parent, I have two very important ones: my son and daughter. Their lives, and their health, are so important to me, as all children's are. When we think about the choices we make for our kids, from healthy food to fun exercise, it's important to remember that the quality of air they breathe is just as important.
We are shaping our world for them to live in, not just in some distant future, but today. That's why President Obama and our colleagues across the federal government just finalized a rule that will help leave the planet safer and healthier for our children and our grandchildren. The Clean Power Plan is a historic step in cutting carbon pollution from the largest source of emissions in our country.
Here are five reasons our children need us to commit to creating a safer and healthier environment:
Because breathing outdoors shouldn't send kids to the hospital.
Increased carbon pollution makes asthma even more dangerous in many communities throughout the United States. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled. For a child growing up with asthma, more carbon pollution leads to more time spent in a hospital or emergency room, and less time spent in the classroom.
Because the outdoors should be for running, not runny noses.
A warmer climate caused by carbon pollution also means a longer pollen season, making it harder for Americans with asthma or allergies. Since 1995, the pollen season for some species of plants has grown by anywhere from a week and a half to nearly a month in some parts of North America. This means kids who have a hard time being outside in the spring are stuck inside well into the summer.
Because they will get enough smoke around campfires.
Pollen and air pollution aren't the only airborne health threats caused by increased carbon pollution. Since the 1980s, the wildfire season has increased by a staggering 78 days, and the duration of these fires has increased five times over. Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke than adults because their airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.
Because the only thing your kids should be afraid of catching in the backyard is cooties.
Illnesses hidden in the backyard could also get worse. Vector-borne illnesses, or illnesses caused by a parasite or pathogen like Lyme disease, will grow as increased carbon pollution warms our climate. With a warmer climate, more places across the country become comfortable for the ticks that carry Lyme disease, they will show up in more yards and areas with tall grass - the places where our kids could easily come into contact with them. Some states are already seeing increases in Lyme disease cases.
Because you have enough to worry about without the threat of extreme weather events.
We have already seen the devastation that can come with extreme weather events. A warming climate caused by carbon pollution could contribute to severe cold spells and heat waves that threaten the lives of countless children and their families living in poverty. Severe storms and hurricanes pose threats to schools in our heartland and on our coasts. If we fail to come together to address climate change, the growing severity of extreme weather events will put families across the nation increasingly at risk.
Keeping our children healthy is challenging enough without the added threats of climate change. With strong but achievable standards for power plants, the Clean Power Plan helps address a number of public health challenges that our children will face.
Cleaner energy doesn't just leave our children a safer country. It leaves them a stronger one, too. Our own parents proved this was true. Since the Clean Air Act was enacted with bipartisan support in 1970, our economy has more than tripled in size. Meanwhile, emissions of key pollutants have dropped by nearly 70 percent. If our parents could do it for us, certainly we can do more for our own children.
The Clean Power Plan offers a future with a healthier economy, healthier environments and healthier childhoods. Together, we can bring our children a world that is a bit greener and a bit healthier.