Illinois congressional Democrats insisted Tuesday that climate change is a public-health issue and, by extension, an economic issue demanding immediate action with the new Biden administration.
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove led five colleagues Tuesday in an online news conference touting the findings in a new report prepared by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and its Subcommittee on Environment. According to Casten, the report can break down into regions of 1,000 square miles, enabling statewide projections.
In Illinois alone, the report projected, if the United States returns to the Paris Climate Agreement and holds to its goal of holding global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the state would prevent 227,000 premature deaths over the next 50 years, along with 253,000 emergency-room visits and 21 million lost workdays, with the economic value of the health benefits estimated at $1.8 trillion, or $36 billion a year.
Calling that a “conservative evaluation” of the health benefits, Casten said it served to “quantify the economic gains” to be had. “These are huge numbers,” he added. “We have a moral obligation to act on climate change. We also have an economic obligation.”
“Illinois can gain from adopting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Howard Learner, president of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago. “We have, however, lost valuable time” under President Trump, he added, although “we’re back on the right track” with the incoming Biden administration and the president-elect’s declared intention to return to the Paris accords.
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville bemoaned Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, calling it “a stunning abdication of American leadership and a display of scientific ignorance.”
Casten pointed out that many Trump policies were imposed by executive order without congressional approval, making them easier to reverse. “There is cause for a lot of optimism here,” he said. “Donald Trump has been a very anti-environmental president. He’s decimated the (Environmental Protection Agency). He’s worked very hard to subsidize and bail out his friends in the fossil-fuel industry.” And yet renewable energy and electric cars have grown during his four years in office.