Choking on climate denial | Editorial

By | June 7, 2023

If you’re wondering what the cost of climate change is, well, here it is: It’s diminishing the quality of your life today. It’s the apocalyptic haze that hangs over our state, that weird cough when you step outside and taste the smoke from a bushfire that’s burning nearly 700 miles away.

Climate change is too stop construction of homes in Phoenix due to drought and water shortages and make it impossible to insure your home in California, as State Farm and Allstate no longer want to sell fire insurance there. And if you look globally, it’s even worse: a third of Pakistan was under water due to climate change-related flooding last year and we are seeing droughts, crop failures and famines all over the world.

Smoke from the wildfire hitting New Jersey right now is nothing new to the West Coast, but it’s a reminder to us that climate change isn’t someone else’s problem, as people like Doug O’ have long emphasized. Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey. The poor will be hardest hit, but we live in a warming world and this will have devastating effects on all of us.

Meanwhile, Republicans still don’t get it. In Washington, the House GOP just passed a bill that would have gutted President Biden’s ambitious climate initiatives, and all three New Jersey Republicans Tom Kean Jr., Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew voted for it. Here at home they are mobilizing against the offshore wind. Where is the urgency to do this? asked Senator Michael Testa, a Republican from South Jersey.

Well that should end any complacency and underscores the importance of supporting the climate policies of Phil Murphy and Joe Bidens like building offshore wind farms to replace dirty coal plants or investing in electric cars to replace gas drinkers. Given the political realities around the world, the situation is sure to get worse. The only question is by how much.

Think of the canceled field trips and graduations this week. Is that really what we want for our children? A world where you can’t take a walk without a hazmat suit?

And it’s a reminder of the importance of tools like air filtration, even as people walk away from the pandemic. You don’t want to be in an office or school that’s sucking in smoke right now. We should be concerned with improving ventilation; it’s not just about Covid, it’s about climate change. Expect air quality filters to become more common, just as home generators have in reaction to extreme weather.

The tools that protect us from COVID masks, air filters, and structural policies like expanding access to healthcare are the tools we need to protect us from the climate crisis, which is causing a decline in air quality and an increase in disease outbreaks, Lucky Tran, a biologist and public health communicator at Columbia University Irving Medical Center tweeted this week.

Because these are no longer once-in-a-lifetime events. They’re happening several times a year, amid floods, droughts and forest fires, notes New Jersey conservationist Jeff Tittel. Hurricane Ida happened less than two years ago and just last week we had two wildfires in South Jersey, one that shut down the Garden State Parkway and another that nearly burned down 40 homes in Medford. And now, this smoke emergency from Canada.

The reason particulate matter from wildfires is so dangerous is because it’s tiny: the smaller the fine particles, the more they infiltrate our lungs. Poor air quality can be a trigger for lethal events like strokes or heart attacks, research shows. It is particularly harmful to children, the elderly and asthmatics. Think how it feels for the more than 600,000 New Jersey residents who have asthma to be out and about right now, many, like Amazon’s delivery workers, having no choice.

Strategies of adaptation will only take us so far, because even the rich cannot buy their own air. There is broad public consensus that climate change is real, and is happening, and we should act accordingly, says O’Malley; but it’s still often framed as something we should do for the next generation. What people need to understand is that this is not a problem with our children or our grandchildren, she adds. This is our problem. Because of the air we are all breathing right now.

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