Our climate is changing, and we’re feeling the dangerous and costly effects right now
2,200 deaths in India, 1,000 in Pakistan: severe droughts are becoming increasingly frequent on our planet, and those who feel them are primarily developing countries. Natural disasters, such as droughts, are caused by extensive carbon emissions. The largest emitter of carbon fuels in the world is the United States.
Not only is the temperature around the world increasing, average temperatures have risen in most states since 1901, with 14 of the 15 hottest years on record occurring in the twenty-first century. Climate and weather disasters in 2012 alone cost the American economy more than $100 billion. Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. In May, 2014, the US Global Change Research Program released the third National Climate Assessment, an authoritative and comprehensive survey of the available scientific information on the impacts that climate change is having across all US regions and on critical sectors of the economy.
On June 2, 2014, the EPA proposed a common-sense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. On August 3, 2015, the EPA finalized this plan and our country took a big step forward in the effort to address climate change. The science shows that climate change is already posing risks to our health and our economy. The Clean Power Plan’s finalization will result in an affordable and reliable energy system, while also cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment now and for future generations. Nationwide, the Clean Power Plan will help cut carbon pollution from the US power sector by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Although there are limits at power plants for other pollutants like arsenic and mercury, there are currently no national limits on carbon.
Why does cutting emissions matter?
Climate change has real and dangerous consequences for our health, especially for children, the elderly, and the poor, who are the most vulnerable to a range of climate related health effects. Cutting emissions will lead to billions of dollars in public health and climate benefits, now and for future generations.
The Clean Power Plan has the potential to provide public health and climate benefits worth an estimated $34 billion to $54 billion per year in 2030, far outweighing the costs. It reduces emissions and exposure to particle pollution and ozone in 2030 which in turn avoids a projected:
– up to 3,600 premature deaths
– 90,000 asthma attacks in children
– up to 1,700 heart attacks
– 1,700 hospital admissions
– 300,000 missed school and work days
Oil and gas industry sponsors strictly opposed the plan. On their behalf, the National Black Chamber of Commerce launched a PR campaign against the carbon regulations. The public was misinformed that the Clean Power Plan would cost minority communities millions of jobs and increase their poverty levels by more than 25 percent.
Coal Divestment at UIUC
Most recently, a new analysis revealed that $2.6 trillion has been divested in shifting assets as part of the global divestment movement. “This movement has struck a chord with people across the world who care about climate change, and convinced some of the largest and most influential institutions in the world to begin pulling their money out of climate destruction,” said May Boeve from 350.org. One of these institutions is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, even though it has yet to divest from university endowment funds.
As Anastasia Schemkes, campaign representative of the Sierra Student Coalition, explains, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign became the latest school (of the 300+ campuses working on fossil fuel divestment) to pass a student-wide divestment referendum two years ago. With all votes tallied, they won with 6-to-1 in favor of divestment – 86% of the voting student body demonstrated their support of coal divestment at UIUC!
In a state ravaged by the coal industry, UIUC Beyond Coal had begun working on coal divestment in August 2011, following an incredible student-driven effort that secured a 2017 commitment by the administration to stop burning coal at the campus power plant.
This represents one step forward for the university to stop supporting coal on our campus, but to bring about the end of the nation’s dependence on coal, UIUC will need to stop financial support of the industry as well, Tyler Rotche from UIUC Beyond Coal points out. To become a truly sustainable university, UIUC administration should make public all its coal investments and divest all university endowment funds out of the “Filthy 15”– the dirtiest utilities, coal operators and mining companies in the U.S.