I have always been fascinated with the medical field and public health. I feel as though I was born with the desire to become a doctor coursing through my veins – a desire to constantly learn, and a desire to help others. Reading a multitude of books about various doctors, as well as experiencing illnesses and often-consequent losses only reinforced this desire. One of the impacts of coal-fueled climate change on my generation will clearly appear in the area of public health. Climate change, in the form of rising temperatures, differing precipitation patterns and catastrophic weather events will contribute to higher incidents of disease. Medicine will become even more global in nature, requiring my generation to be more educated and to collaborate with many cultures. All of us must take responsibility for working toward clean energy in order to ensure a healthy planet.
Until recent years, the detrimental effects of coal and its heavy carbon dioxide emissions had been ignored due to the nation’s immense coal reserves, as well as its dependence on coal for energy. However, President Obama has now publicly declared a war on coal, striving to make America the chief natural gas producer in order to manage climate change, as well as to abate carbon emissions. In his climate change plan, President Obama acknowledged that, albeit one action alone will not be able to negate the effects of climate change, we – as a nation – owe it to subsequent generations to minimize these effects and not leave future generations with a world that is polluted. “In 2009, President Obama made a pledge that by 2020, America would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels if all other major economies agreed to limit their emissions as well” (www.whitehouse.gov). The reality is that if the United States continues to use coal as one of its predominant energy sources, its detrimental health and environmental effects will only become more prevalent.
The primary toxins found in coal are mercury, chromium, selenium, lead, arsenic, and boron. Each of these toxins plays a prominent role in the degeneration of human and environmental health. Known respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological effects are seen throughout every process of coal’s lifecycle – from the initial stages of mining to the final stages of discarding post-combustion waste – and include chronic bronchitis, asthma, loss of IQ, mental retardation, impaired vision, paralysis, kidney, liver, and intestine damage, cancer, and a reduced life expectancy ,among others. Environmentally, coal’s pernicious effects include water and air pollution, soil and ecosystem degradation, and global warming. Obama’s proposed EPA regulations will help create a reduction in carbon emissions and a simultaneous progression toward a cleaner and healthier world.
President Obama has directed the EPA to contrive a new standard under the Clean Air Act for America’s power plants, as well as for the fossil fuel plants that are presently permitted to dump infinite amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Accompanying this directive is an even greater shift away from the use of coal toward that of natural gas – a more preferable source of energy that is not so detrimental to human health, air quality, and water purity. This switch to natural gas and other clean energy sources like solar and wind will be the central component in the nation’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and will both stagnate pollution and aid in the fight against global warming – something that will have a profound effect on the health of future generations and the environment.