If it feels like the only news you hear about the climate is bad, well, it's not just you.
On top of record wildfires in California as well as Western Canada – which not only destroy forests and grassland, but also create air pollution that travels west across the continent – July's sweltering heat waves made it the warmest on record so far.
Unfortunately, the government's response to the climate disaster, frankly, isn't enough to address climate change. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency replaced the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era plan aimed at lowering carbon emissions, with the Trump administration's Affordable Clean Energy plan, which rolls back regulations on coal emissions.
The new rules will be deadly for thousands of Americans – and they're just the latest in a long line of rollbacks that will negatively impact the environment. Read on to learn what's going on – and how you can help.
Rolling Back Emission Regulations is Deadly
The Clean Power Plan was one of former President Barack Obama's tactics for combating climate change by lowering the United States' carbon footprint – but it also had implications on your health.
Polluted air is linked to both lung and heart disease, as well as other breathing problems like bronchitis. Under Obama, the E.P.A calculated that the Clean Power Plan would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths per year by 2030, the New York Times reports.
Replacing the Clean Power Plan with President Donald Trump's Affordable Clean Energy plan means losing out on those health benefits over the next 12 years. The government's own analysis reports that it could increase premature deaths by 1,400 each year – which adds up to over 15,000 premature deaths by 2030. It will also trigger more cases of lung and heart disease, more respiratory problems, and tens of thousands of school absences.
New Coal Rules Just the Newest Deregulation
The new emission guidelines caught the most headlines this week – but they're far from the only deregulations proposed by the EPA this year. This summer, the EPA moved to revoke California's ability to set it's own car emission standards. This makes it easier for car manufacturers to make vehicles with higher emissions, since manufacturers make their vehicles to meet California's stricter regulations (and the same vehicles are then sold all across the country).
Earlier this year, the EPA also rolled back clean water protections. The new rules allow for more water contamination by gray ash, a by-product of coal burning that leaches toxic heavy metals, like arsenic and lead, into water sources. And the Trump administration plans to roll back the Endangered Species Act, putting species like the bald eagle, grizzly bear and southern sea otter at higher risk.
What Can You Do to Help?
Following climate news can feel pretty bleak – and it can be difficult in an era where major news seems to break every 10 seconds.
Keep up with environmental news with Harvard Law School's Regulatory Rollback Tracker. The database not only lets you know what rollbacks are in the works, but each rollback comes with a quick primer to help you understand what's going on – and includes links to leave the government a public comment to let them know how you feel.
Write to your state and federal representatives when you see a rollback you disagree with – and urge them to take action to protect the environment. And get involved with local climate marches and demonstrations. Not only will you make your voice heard, but you'll meet like-minded people in your community – and maybe a new friend!
About the Author
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Before launching her writing business, she worked as a TA and tutored students in biology, chemistry, math and physics.