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Physicians for Social Responsibility
Robert K. Musil, PhD, MPH, Executive Director and CEO Susan West Marmagas, MPH, Director, Environment and Health Program Karen Hopfl-Harris, JD, Legislative Director Lara Hensley, Program Coordinator Michelle G. Chuk, MPH, Public Health Program Director Sadhna Vora, Environment and Health Program Intern Cindy Parker, MD, MPH, Environmental Health Consultant

New York Advisory Board
Jason K. Babbie, Environmental Policy Analyst, New York Public Interest Research Group David O. Carpenter, MD, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, Professor, Environmental Health and Toxiciology, School of Public Health, University at Albany Cathey Falvo, MD, Professor, Graduate School of Health Sciences, New York Medical College Peter M. Iwonowicz, Director of Environmental Health, American Lung Association of New York State Anne K. Reynolds, MS, Project Director, Environmental Associates

December 2001

This report was prepared by Physicians for Social Responsibility to alert New York residents to the potential health effects of climate change and to encourage them to reverse global warming’s deadly course by reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
This report was made possible by CLEAR THE AIR, The National Campaign Against Dirty Power.

PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY 1875 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 1012 Washington, DC 20009 tel: (202) 667-4260 fax: (202) 667-4201 website:

The Health Threats of Climate Change in New York Physicians for Social Responsibility

Executive Summary—New York ................................................................. 6 The Complex Origins of Climate Change................................................... 8 The State of the Science ............................................................................. 9 Global Warming on a Local Level .............................................................. 10 How Could Climate Change Affect the Health of New York Residents? .............................................................................. Direct Effects of Heat on Health .............................................................. Health Effects from Extreme Weather Events ......................................... Health Effects from Worsening Air Quality ............................................ How Climate Change Could Affect Diseases Carried By Insects .......... How Climate Change Could Affect the Supplies and Quality of Water and Food ......................................................................

11 11 12 14 22 23

Summary ........................................................................................................ 25 Policy Considerations ........................................................................ 25 What You Can Do ......................................................................................... 27



Climate fluctuations have occurred during previous centuries, but at the dawn of the 20th century, a warming trend started that now shows no signs of stopping. During the past 100 years, average global surface temperatures have increased by approximately 1° Fahrenheit (F) (1). In New York, the average temperature during the period from 1900 to 1999 was 1° F higher than it was in the previous century (2). Over the next century, however, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations sponsored group of more that 2,500 experts from all aspects of the field of climate change, and the results of the United Kingdom Hadley Centre’s climate model project that temperatures in New York could increase 4° F in the winter months and more than that in the summer months (2). The last 13 years, from 1987 to 2000 have been among the 15 warmest on record (3). Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the winter of 2000 was the warmest winter on record since the U.S. government began keeping weather statistics 105 years ago (3). Although uncertainties exist in measuring global warming, an overwhelming consensus among scientists has emerged during the last few decades on several key points: • The increase in temperature is real; • Human activities—in particular our burning of fossil fuels—are affecting the climate system (4); and • Warmer conditions on earth will directly affect our lives, health, and well-being (5). This report describes how the changing global climate could affect human health. Our focus is New York, a state that many consider a unique case study for increased illness, injury, and mortality due to the projected changes in temperature and weather.

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


Executive Summary—New York
Though climate change happens on a global scale, New York is in a unique position. It is a state that derives a great deal of its revenue from agriculture and tourism and has one of the largest elderly populations in the country. Therefore, New York could potentially be forced to address some significant problems over the next century in light of climate change projections. According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), average temperatures in the state of New York could increase by approximately 4º F during the next century (2). Very recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revised its previous temperature projections upwards and now projects average global temperatures to increase by 2.5º to 10.4º F by 2100 (1). Temperatures over landmasses likely will be higher (1). Revisions in local temperature projections for New York are not yet available, but it is reasonable to expect further increases. With the potential of climate change, New York is at risk for a number of reasons including significant increases in air pollution and adverse health effects due to extreme weather, loss of crops and livestock, and increases in injuries and property damage as a result of sea level rise. By 2100, sea level at the New York coastline is projected to rise 22 inches (2). Sea level rise may lead to flooding in low-lying areas, loss of coastal wetlands, erosion of beaches, and salt water intrusion that contaminates drinking water sources (2). New York has one of the most urbanized coastlines in the U.S. Over 20 million people use New York beaches annually (2). Just protecting the New York coastline from a one- to three-foot rise in sea level is projected to cost $30–$140 million (2). Increases in temperature can directly affect health by causing more cases of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. At the extreme, heat stroke can cause death, and heat may exacerbate other medical conditions. The elderly, infirm, and the poor will likely suffer the most (8). New York has one of the largest populations of senior citizens of any state. In 2000, more than 2.45 million people older than 65 were living in New York state—about 12% of the population. By 2025 that number is expected to increase to 3.3 million and make up more than 16% of the state’s population (9). The “urban heat island” effect, the meteorological condition that increases heat exposure for city dwellers, is often seen in large urban areas. This phenomenon increases the risk of heat-related illnesses for those individuals who live in metropolitan areas, as there is little opportunity for the dissipation of extreme heat within the city. As New York City is the second largest city in the country, there is significant risk for this condition to occur. Additional risks include prolonged periods of ambient temperatures at or above body temperatures, high humidity, increased barometric pressure, and reduced wind (6). Climate change is also expected to affect people’s exposure to air pollutants. As climate change affects local and regional weather, air pollutants may be concentrated in or be blown away from a particular area. Actual amounts of air pollutants, such as sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury (Hg), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM) are expected to rise with increased fossil-fuel consumption used to produce power.



How Climate Change Could Threaten Health in New York
According to physicians who have studied global warming and its effects, the most severe health risks in New York could include the following: Decreased air quality, causing more frequent and severe asthma attacks and worsening of other respiratory and cardiac problems, could result from • Increased ozone (smog) levels. • Greater emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and other toxic pollutants. • Increased pollen levels. • Smoke from forest fires sparked by drought. Heat-related illness • The number of heat-related deaths could increase significantly (2). • Senior citizens, the very young, and the poor are at greatest risk of morbidity or even death from heat stress. Increased accidents and injuries could result from • An increase in extreme weather events. • A projected increase of 22 inches in sea level at the New York coastline, which by 2100 would bring worsening storm surges, flooding, and coastal erosion (2). Infectious diseases • Water used for drinking and recreation can become contaminated by animal and human wastes. This is more apt to occur after heavy rainfall and can lead to bacterial, parasitic, or viral infections. • The increased risk of mosquito-borne illnesses could result. Food and water supply • A potential decrease in yields of agricultural products including corn, silage, and hay. Currently, the annual revenue from the agricultural industry in New York is $3 billion (2). • Warmer temperatures may lead to enhanced evaporation. When combined with drought, there may be an increased need to irrigate crops, which could further compromise water resources. • Increased temperatures could lead to the intrusion of salt water into fresh water sources, making it unsafe to drink.

Increasing construction of power plants, for example, without updating emissions and efficiency standards, may lead to increased burning of fossil fuels to power industry, businesses, and homes, and is therefore likely to increase the amounts of pollutants in the air. In addition, the diversity of crops and livestock in the state of New York is influenced by climatic conditions and water availability. As the temperature increases, production patterns have the potential to shift northward. Additionally, increases in climate variability could require adaptation of crops that are able to handle new climatic conditions. Warmer climates and less soil moisture due to increased evaporation may increase the need for irrigation. However, these same conditions could decrease water supplies, which are shared by natural ecosystems, urban populations, and other economic sectors. Water quality and availability may also be compromised as the climate changes. We may see reduced availability of water due to increased evaporation, altered seasonal cycles of runoff, variable river and stream flow, and greater salinity in the coastal zones due to encroaching seawaters. Droughts and enhanced soil evaporation from higher temperatures may require that more water be used for irrigation. If more of New York’s

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


precipitation comes in the form of heavy rainfall events, less water is absorbed into the soil to replenish groundwater sources, and more water becomes runoff leading to flooding. Through complex interactions, we may experience further warming and increases in weather variability (10). There is some evidence to suggest there may be small increases in the frequency of Atlantic hurricanes, and considerable evidence suggests there will be more heavy precipitation events, although there may be significant local variability (10). Both floods and droughts can result in contaminated water causing waterborne diseases. If contaminated water is used to irrigate or process crops, the food supply could also be contaminated (11). Cyclospora and Vibrio vulnificus are two contaminants that are apt to be more of a problem with warmer temperatures. Cyclospora causes infection associated with fresh produce, and Vibrio vulnificus causes infection when contaminated shellfish are eaten. Also, an increase in water temperatures often leads to an increase in the growth of bacteria and toxic algae (11). Impacts on farming, fishing, and tourism could affect jobs and income in the state with far-reaching negative socioeconomic impacts. Such changes may decrease the number of New York residents that can afford health insurance, resulting in reduced access to health care. State uninsured rates are already of concern. In 1999, 16.5% of New York residents were without health insurance coverage (12). The additional economic burden on existing coverage, especially Medicare and Medicaid, could be substantial. New York residents and policy makers need to be keenly aware of the potential health impacts of global warming. Precautions taken now can help to lessen or avert potential health problems in the future. The following sections describe the specific health effects that could result from global warming over the coming decades. As has been noted, the earth had already experienced warming over the past 100 years, with further warming due to rising greenhouse gas concentrations very likely. In some cases, there is a high level of certainty about the projections; in others, the evidence is less definitive. As in all science, there are varying degrees of uncertainty about conclusions and future projections. One must proceed, however, based on the best evidence available, with future revisions, if dictated, by improvements in scientific understanding. Due to the health care infrastructure and still-strong economy, the U.S. has some ability to adapt to and prepare for these changes. However, only by taking action now to decrease greenhouse gas emissions can we hope to stabilize the climate before damage to the planet is beyond repair.

The Complex Origins of Climate Change
Since the end of the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago, average temperatures worldwide have risen only 9º F, mainly due to natural changes in the geographical distribution of the sun’s energy and in the amounts of dust, carbon dioxide, and other gases in the atmosphere. In recent years, the rate of increase in temperature has been accelerating. Some greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor occur



naturally, residing in the atmosphere and insulating Earth. Though a natural warming effect is crucial to life as we know it, these gases retain heat from the sun’s rays and keep the earth’s surface about 60º F warmer than it would be otherwise (13). However, since the late 1700s—the beginning of the industrial revolution—atmospheric concentrations of some greenhouse gases have steadily increased. Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 31% since the time of the industrial revolution, and are responsible for more than 60% of the “enhanced” greenhouse effect. Methane concentrations have more than doubled and contribute up to 20% of the climate change impacts caused by greenhouse gases (13). Methane is released from garbage dumps, farm animals, coal mining, and natural gas producers. Nitrogen oxides result from burning fossil fuels and have a life span of about 120 years, meaning that fuels burned now will continue to remain in the atmosphere, potentially contributing to climate change and health problems, until the year 2120 (7,61). Also since the mid-1700s nitrogen oxide concentrations have risen by about 13% (7). These increases in greenhouse gas concentrations are believed to be the major causes of climate change over the past 100 to 200 years. Human factors are among the most important contributors to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Fuel burned to run cars and trucks, heat homes and businesses, and power factories generates approximately 80% of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. (13). Deforestation, livestock production, landfills, industrial production, and mining also can change the levels of greenhouse gases by increasing emissions or by decreasing the absorption of gases by plants. Currently, the U.S. is responsible for releasing about 25% of global energyrelated carbon emissions into the atmosphere each year. In 1999, the U.S. released 11% more greenhouse gases than in 1990 (14).

The State of the Science
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change distributed a report to government officials worldwide stating that by 2100, average global surface temperatures will rise 2.5º to 10.4º F (1.4º to 5.8º C) (1). This is a significantly greater increase than the 1.8º to 6.2º F increase projected in their 1995 report (5). This upward revision is due to improved scientific computer modeling. New studies and better methods for analyzing the data have “led to a better understanding of climate change” (15). Studying satellite data, sea surface temperatures, coral reefs, tropical glaciers, and changes in the Polar regions has led to more conclusive evidence that human activities are predominantly responsible for climate change. Two recently released studies lend additional strength to the evidence. An April 6, 2001 report in the journal Science presented data showing a progressive warming of tropical oceans since at least 1950. The authors, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and NOAA, say this supports other evidence for human-induced climate change (16). The researchers also found a correlation between the warming oceans and climate changes in Northern Hemisphere winters during the 50-year study period (16). The warm waters appear to heat the tropical atmosphere, which influences atmospheric

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York



The Greenhouse Effect

Earth radiates heat back into space

atmospheric greenhouse gases from natural sources and human activity

greenhouse gases trap heat

Earth absorbs solar radiation (heat) deforestation reduces absorption of carbon dioxide

burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide

industry releases carbon dioxide

vehicles emit carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide

agriculture produces methane and nitrogen oxide emissions

Source: Adapted from The Impact of Climate Change, United Nations Environment Programme, 1993; Climate Action Network.

pressure patterns and winds over the North Atlantic and North Pacific, shifting storm paths to the north (16). Yet another study, published the following week in Science by researchers from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, found evidence for “human produced warming in the upper 3,000 meters of the world’s oceans” (17). No longer are there questions about whether Earth is warming, that evidence is now indisputable. The questions are how much and what can be done to slow the process.

Global Warming on a Local Level
Although the average temperature worldwide is increasing, hence the term “global warming,” the story becomes more complicated at the local level. One reason is that a warmer atmosphere can hold greater amounts of water, which may result in increased precipitation. Another is that warmer air means changes in wind patterns. The resulting weather changes will vary from place to place. In general, we can expect more extremes and variability in our



weather—more heat waves, more storms, wetter climates in some places, drier climates in others, and even cooler temperatures in certain areas. Many scientists therefore, prefer the term “global climate change” to “global warming.” In this report, we use the two terms more or less interchangeably.

How Could Climate Change Affect the Health of New York Residents?
Direct Effects of Heat on Health
Heat-related disorders are caused by a reduction in, or collapse of, the body’s ability to shed heat by circulatory changes and sweating. Such disorders may also develop due to a chemical (salt) imbalance caused by too much sweating (8). Heat may lead to severe health problems, such as heat cramps, exertional heat injury, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. All of these effects could increase in New York as climate change causes higher temperatures, more prolonged heat waves, and warmer nights. Heat cramps are spasms that primarily affect people who exert themselves through strenuous work or exercise in a warm environment. Workers on farms and in construction, people walking to and from shopping and work, as well as tourists may experience heat cramps as a first sign of heat stress. Electrolyte imbalances likely cause these cramps, and salt and water replacement usually relieves them. A more severe condition is exertional heat injury that commonly occurs among runners who are not properly conditioned and hydrated. The body can reach 102º to 104º F, with symptoms that include goose bumps, chills, nausea, vomiting, and unsteady gait (8). Heat exhaustion or heat collapse is the most common heat-related condition. It occurs when the cardiovascular system cannot keep up with the body’s heat demands. An affected person feels dizzy, weak, cold, clammy, and has ashen skin and dilated pupils. The individual may require hospitalization (8). When moved to a cool place, victims of heat exhaustion will usually recover (8). Heat stroke, the most severe of these conditions, can be fatal. If body temperature reaches 105º F or above, damage to the kidneys, muscles, heart, and blood cells may result. Sweating stops altogether. Death due to complications such as kidney failure can occur immediately or could be delayed up to several weeks (8).

Heat Stress, Heart Attacks, and Stroke
According to NOAA, about 175 to 200 persons die from heat-related disorders during an average year in the US. This statistic rises to more than 1,500 persons during heat waves. The exact number of persons seeking treatment for heat-related disorders is not recorded but reaches into the thousands (18). A 1997 study by scientists at the University of Delaware Center for Climatic Research examined mortality and weather data for a series of cities in the U.S. During oppressive heat wave events, there was a significant increase in the number of deaths per day for the general

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


population, with the elderly being most at risk (19). Some of the deaths are from heatstroke, but many of the deaths are thought to be from heart attacks and stroke. When a person overheats, the heart tries to pump harder and faster to dissipate the heat. Heat stress may also cause the blood to clot more easily (8). Urban areas are more likely to warm to a greater degree than surrounding rural areas due in part to a phenomenon called the “heat island” effect. Urban residents, therefore are at greater risk of heatstroke and other heat-related causes of mortality because buildings and roads absorb heat during the day and release the heat during the night, keeping nighttime temperatures high, so bodies do not get a chance to cool off and recuperate before the next day’s high temperatures (19). As New York City is the second largest city in the country, the residents are at an even greater risk. The specific meteorological conditions that increase exposure for city dwellers and inhibit heat dissipation include prolonged periods of ambient temperatures at or above body temperatures, high humidity, increased barometric pressure, and reduced wind (6). The elderly, who make up about 12% of the population of New York, are particularly vulnerable to severe heat-related illnesses and death for the following reasons: • Impaired ability to disperse heat through the body’s physiological mechanisms. • Higher likelihood of having underlying diseases. • Higher likelihood of taking medications that may contribute to heatstroke. • More problems with mobility. • Difficulty with temperature perception. These factors all combine to put New York’s 2.5 million senior citizens at greater risk of suffering a heat-related illness or death (8). Other groups particularly vulnerable to heat stress include infants and young children, people who are socially isolated, anyone with serious cardiac or respiratory problems, anyone with mobility or other conditions limiting their ability to care for themselves and regulate their fluid intake, and the poor (8).

Health Effects from Extreme Weather Events
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has determined that extreme weather events may become more common during the 21st century. For New York, extreme weather events will be primarily heavy rainfall events (5). Current EPA information indicates that precipitation is projected to increase by 10% to 20% over the next 100 years, with slightly less change in the spring and slightly more in the winter (2). There is some evidence to suggest that Atlantic hurricanes may increase in frequency and/or intensity (10), but it is more certain that hurricanes will bring greater precipitation than has been common during past hurricanes (20). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has done a great deal of modeling to chart the possible flooding effects of hurricanes that could hit New York. Scientists



believe that mass flooding will be an inevitable result of an epic hurricane, even though no substantial hurricanes have hit New York in the last 66 years (21). The models developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers show that during a category three hurricane, the storm surge has the potential to cause water levels to rise to 20 feet at the Statue of Liberty, 30 feet in Jamaica Bay, and 18 feet at the Rockaways (21), due in part to the unique geography of New York and the right angle that it forms with the New Jersey coast. According to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, New York residents live in “the most dangerous storm surge area in the nation” (21). Along much of New York’s coastline, sea level has already risen 10 inches in the last century. It is projected to rise 22 inches by 2100 (2). New York has one of the most urbanized coastlines in the U.S. More than 20 million people use New York’s coastal regions for recreation each year (2). With this extensive usage, more extreme weather events could have serious effects on

Sea-level Rise in the New York City Area
This map illustrates what sea-level rise could mean to residents of the New York City area. Currently, a storm that produces flooding of areas up to 10 feet above sealevel, shown in black on the map, occurs about once every 100 years. By 2100, in the worst-case scenario, storms will flood these areas nearly every year.




at ta


Queens Brooklyn




sl nI



1-10 feet above current sea level

Source: Environmental Defense

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


health. Sea level rise can lead to flooding of low-lying areas, contamination of drinking water, and increase the likelihood of traumatic deaths and injuries as a result of flooding.

Health Effects from Worsening Air Quality The Climate Change/Air Quality Link
The link between air quality and climate change is complex. Some of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change are air pollutants with known negative health effects; others, like carbon dioxide, are not directly associated with negative health effects but are major contributors to global climate change. Climate change is expected to affect air quality in at least five different ways. First, pollutant concentrations in the air at a specific location may be affected by local and regional weather conditions. Still air allows pollutants to accumulate; wind can blow pollutants to other areas. Climate change may have significant effects on local weather conditions, which then have considerable effects on local air quality.

Air Conditioning: The Vicious Cycle
¿ These emissions, in turn, contribute to global warming, making the problem worse, as well as increasing smog levels and exacerbating respiratory diseases. As temperatures rise due to global warming, the demand for air conditioning increases.

» Emissions of other harmful air pollutants from power plants also increase.

· This increased demand unfortunately results in increased energy use and more greenhouse gas emissions.



The Precautionary Principle
Legislators, physicians, ethicists, and environmentalists often refer to a term called “the precautionary principle” when dealing with climate change issues. The term’s definition states, “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context, the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof” (23). The precautionary principle has four main components: 1) Communities have a duty and a right to take anticipatory action to prevent harm; 2) The burden of proof of the harmlessness of a new technology process, activity, or chemical is the responsibility of the proponents, not the public; 3) Communities have an obligation to discuss and to explore a full range of alternatives to the hazards posed; and 4) Decisions must be open, informed, and democratic. The precautionary principle is already used in some health-related areas. Immunizations, for example, are given to protect individuals against the relatively slim chance of developing a disease. The person receiving the immunization does not know for certain that they would have contracted the disease if the immunization had not been given, but the possible risk of disease was significant enough to warrant taking the precautionary step of obtaining the immunization. Global warming requires that same sense of precaution and a willingness to take action. We have strong evidence that global warming is occurring and that it is largely the result of human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels. There is no way to know exactly how much and in what ways any individual will be affected. We do know, however, that by doing nothing and allowing the climate change situation to worsen, we are at significant risk of multiple, severely negative consequences. Therefore, applying the precautionary principle to the issue of climate change dictates that we take steps to slow global warming by greatly reducing our consumption of fossil fuels and enforcing and expanding current regulations to protect public health and the environment from dirty, dangerous power plants.

Second, concentrations of man-made pollutants may increase as a result of increased fossil-fuel use, if power plant emissions and appliance efficiency standards are not updated. As temperatures get warmer, for example, air conditioner use will increase. More energy will be needed to power the air conditioners, and if this energy is derived from fossil fuels, more greenhouse gases are released into the air leading to a vicious cycle. (See figure 3, page 14.) Air pollutants such as ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and sulfur dioxides (SOX) all have negative health effects. Climate change can increase concentrations of these pollutants as well as compound their effects. Growth and development within communities will require greater amounts of energy. If that energy is derived from fossil fuels, emissions of pollutants will continue to increase. Conversely, improving energy efficiency, elimination of waste, updating emissions standards, and utilization of renewable energy sources could allow growth and development without contributing more greenhouse gases into the environment. Third, natural (non-man-made) sources of air pollutants may also increase. For example, higher temperatures cause forests and other sources of natural volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to emit greater amounts. Fourth, ground-level ozone is formed from nitrogen oxide (NOX) and VOCs (both natural and man-made) in the presence of sunlight and heat. As

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


temperatures increase, ground-level ozone formation increases. While ozone in the upper atmosphere, called stratospheric ozone, helps to protect us from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, ground-level ozone, called tropospheric ozone, is very harmful to breathe. Lastly, airborne allergens, such as pollens, could change in concentration and distribution. For instance, as global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels increase, plant growth may also increase, combined with weather conditions leading to more pollen. Each of these pollutants is discussed in greater detail in the following section.

Health Effects of Air Pollutants
Higher temperatures cause more VOCs to escape into the air when people fuel and run their vehicles. With warmer temperatures and sunlight, groundlevel ozone, which is the major component of smog, is formed from nitrogen oxides and VOCs (11). Ozone is known to make chronic respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease much worse. Even healthy New York residents who breathe ground-level ozone, or smog, can experience coughing, lung and eye irritation, shortness of breath, and problems with short-term lung function (24). Carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, mercury, and nitrogen oxides all have negative health effects including toxicity, lung irritation, reduced lung function, disrupted development, and aggravation of existing cardiovascular diseases. In addition, SoX and NOX can combine with other pollutants in the air to form particulate matter (24). People who are exposed to particulate matter can experience exacerbation of chronic respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, damaged lung tissue, and changes in the body’s ability to fight off diseases that can lead to premature death and possibly contribute to cancer (24). The elderly, infants and children, and those with underlying heart or lung disease are especially vulnerable (24). Ozone Ground-level ozone is the major component of what is commonly called smog, which is the most pervasive outdoor air pollutant in the U.S. Ozone is a toxic and irritating gas that, even in small amounts, can affect health. Ozone, or smog, is formed when nitrogen oxides and VOCs emitted from motor vehicles, power plants, refineries, factories, and even some natural sources, like plants, are heated by sunlight (25). Smog is at its worst on hot, sunny days, which are likely to become more numerous with global warming. The health of New York’s residents is threatened by smog, as evidenced by state air quality indexes in the years 1997 to 1999 (26). Exposure to elevated ozone levels can cause severe coughing, shortness of breath, pain when breathing, lung and eye irritation, and greater susceptibility to respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia (26). Even healthy adults who exercise moderately can experience a 15% to 20% reduction in lung function from exposure to low levels of ozone over several hours. A report issued by the American Lung Association in 1997 indicated that more than 2.3 million people were at risk for respiratory problems over the three-year period of 1995 to 1997 in New York state as a result of ozone (27).



In 1996, the American Lung Association and the Harvard School of Public Health released a study titled “Breathless: Air Pollution and Hospital Admissions/Emergency Room Visits in 13 Cities.” This study linked emergency room visits and hospital admissions for respiratory conditions to high ozone levels. The report found that in one summer in New York City, over 100,000 emergency room visits and over 36,000 respiratory hospital admissions occurred as a result of ozone exposure (28). Volatile Organic Compounds Another group of air pollutants consist of VOCs, which are generated by power plants, municipal waste combustors, motor vehicles, solvent use, and the chemical and food industries. VOCs include a variety of hazardous air toxins, including benzene, butanes, and toluene. Some VOCs are toxic, can combine with nitrogen oxides to form ozone, and have been associated with cancer, as well as adverse neurological, reproductive, and developmental effects (29). As temperatures increase, higher levels of VOCs are emitted when people fuel and operate motor vehicles (24). Some VOCs are emitted from natural sources like forests. These natural sources also emit higher levels of VOCs when temperatures increase. For example, natural emissions nearly double with an increase of 17º F temperature (30). Thus, climate change is expected to increase levels of both human-made and natural sources of VOCs, subsequently increasing ozone levels. Nitrogen Oxides Like VOCs, nitrogen oxides play multiple roles in adversely affecting health. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is toxic, and it also combines with VOCs to form ozone. In the lungs, NO2 combines with water to form acids that damage the lung tissue (31). Nitrogen oxides also oxidize in the atmosphere to become nitric acid, a major component of acid rain (24). Higher temperatures accelerate this process, increasing the potential for acid raid with climate change (24). Nitrogen oxides also combine with sulfur dioxide to form particulates, discussed in more detail in the next section. Sulfur Dioxides and Particulate Matter Sulfur dioxides, like nitrogen oxides, are oxidized in the atmosphere to become acid rain and can combine with nitrogen oxides to form fine particles, called particulate matter (24). Particulate matter can be emitted directly from the combustion of fossil fuels, industrial processes, and transportation; created by the combination of gases, such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides (24); and formed by dust and smoke from wildfires. Several studies have documented that both the elderly and children had an increase in hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiac causes when concentrations of particulate matter increased (32-37). One study conducted by a well-known group of researchers from Harvard discovered that long-term exposure to air pollution significantly increased the risk of death (32). Another group of Boston researchers discovered that particulate matter could trigger a heart attack in people who are obese, inactive, or have a history of heart problems (38). The risk for heart attack

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


peaked two hours and again 24 hours after exposure to increased levels of fine particles, despite the fact that the levels of particulate matter were never above federal air quality standards (38). Fine particles are especially dangerous for infants and young children. Children breathe 50% more air per pound of body weight than adults, thus taking in more pollutants (39). One study found that infants living in cities with high levels of fine particles have a 26% increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome, and infants living in high pollution areas were 40% more likely to die of respiratory causes (40). Pollen and Natural Allergens Natural allergens such as pollens and fungal spores also contribute to air pollution and may increase with climate change. An increase in temperature and precipitation could lead to increased fungal growth, which could exacerbate asthma and other respiratory conditions (41). Some pollenproducing plants, such as birch trees, have been found to increase their pollen production and the allergen content of the pollen with increasing temperatures (42). Warmer temperatures may also lengthen the allergy season (43). Mercury Mercury is a known neurotoxin that can inhibit cognitive and motor skill development in fetuses and infants. A pregnant or nursing mother who eats fish containing mercury passes the compound across the placenta or through breast milk. Increased use of coal-burning power plants, which currently emit high levels of mercury, will also increase mercury deposition into waterways elevating levels of mercury in fish.



The Politics of Power Plants

The impacts that power plant emissions have on New Yorker’s lives and health as a direct result of poor air quality and the myriad of impacts resulting from global warming is indisputable. Furthermore, many of these effects disproportionately affect low-income communities of color, creating an environmental justice issue.

The electric power industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Sootand smog-forming air pollution, gases that cause global climate change, and toxic mercury emissions from power plants seriously threaten public health and the environment. Old fossil fuel-burning power plants, built between the 1940s and 1960s, create the vast majority of power plant air pollution. When Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, and amended it in 1977 and 1990, electric industry lobbyists convinced Congress that older plants would soon be retired and therefore should be exempt from strict emissions standards (44). As a result, these old power plants emit, on average, four to ten times more air pollution than new plants. In addition, this loophole makes it profitable for these old plants to continue operating. Larger profits are being

enjoyed at the expense of polluting our communities, endangering public health, and damaging our environment. Findings released in a report in October of 2000 called “Death, Disease and Dirty Power” revealed the extremely large share of the toll of death and disease that can be attributed to fine particle pollution in the air emitted by power plants (44). The report shows that over 30,000 deaths each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from power plants across the country and exceed the total death toll of such public health concerns as drunk driving and homicide. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Americans suffer from asthma attacks, cardiac problems, and upper respiratory ailments associated with power plant pollution. This report also shows that power plants’ particle pollution causes more that 603,000 asthma attacks per year, more than 350,000 of which could be avoided by cleaning up power plants to modern standards (44). In New York, the EPA collects emissions data on 31 power plants throughout the state. 47% of these power plants are fired by coal and 52% of these plants are fired by gas and oil. The coal-fired power plants produce only one quarter of the total energy produced by power plants within the state, though they emit a majority of the air pollutants. In 1998, the EPA

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


calculated that more than 62% of NOX emissions, 77% of SOX emissions, and 48% of CO2 emissions come from coal-fired power plants in New York (45). New York’s dirtiest power plants are only about half as efficient as modern plants, and so they use twice as much fuel. New York is home to 21 dirty, outdated power plants taking advantage of lower emission standards in the Clean Air Act. They are located throughout the state from rural to densely populated areas (46). In the corridor between Buffalo and Rochester, for example, there were at one time four coalfired power plants. The EPA estimated that in 1997, these four plants alone emitted 58% of all of the NOX and 52% of all of the SOx that came from coal-fired power plants in the state of New York (45). In the past two years, two of the power plants in the Rochester area have closed down, however, emissions from producing power throughout the state have increased (46). In July 2001, Clear the Air released a report entitled, “The Power To Kill: Death and Disease from Power Plants Charged with Violating the Clean Air Act.” This report highlighted the health impacts from the nation’s oldest, dirtiest power plants that have been able to avoid

modern pollution controls as a result of a loophole in the Clean Air Act (47). To limit the effects of this loophole, an enforcement program called New Source Review was created to require plant owners to upgrade their pollution controls to modern standards when modifications are made. In reality, some power plant companies have been effectively circumventing New Source Review regulations for years. In March 2000, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, in cooperation with the office of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, issued Notice of Violations against six facilities in New York state that have been illegally taking advantage of the loophole (47). “Power to Kill” also indicates that the death rate in New York as a result of these old, dirty power plants is approximately 11 to 20 per 100,000 adults in the state (47). This is approximately 353 to 534 deaths annually in New York, of which 285 to 375 could be avoided each year with modern pollution controls (47). Ozone readings throughout New York state violated federal clean air standards 168 times during the summer of 2001, the second highest number in the past decade and close to three times higher than the ozone violations reported


Coal-fired Power Plants in New York State
Rochester 3 Kintigh Rochester 7

C R Huntley S A Carlson Dunkirk Jennison Danskammer Lovett Hickling Greenidge Milliken Goudey

Adapted from U.S. EPA



Bringing NY’s dirtiest power plants up to modern pollution standards would be equal to eliminating the pollution from 1.8 million cars.

Pollution from Pollution from NY’s Diriest = Over 3.5 million Power Plants cars

NY’s dirtiest power plants produce 69,000 tons of nitrogen oxides each year, equal to the nitrogen oxide emissions from over 3.5 million cars.
Source: Public Interest GRFX

last year (48). New York, and other states throughout this country, must fight hard to ensure that lawsuits and regulations against Midwestern and Southern utilities are required to mitigate their significant and harmful emissions levels. New York and other Eastern states are often the recipients of air pollution that comes from these Southern and Midwestern states and if changes are not made rapidly, air pollution in New York will grow worse (48). The Clean Air Task Force also issued a report in the spring of 2001 that systematically reviewed the health impacts of 37 power generating units from the remaining 19 dirtiest power plants in New York state. This report compares the actual findings to projected health impacts from an emissions reduction program proposed by Governor George Pataki and a set of Clean Air Task Force recommendations for pollutant restrictions (49). This report suggests that in 1999 there were more than 16,000 asthma attacks, 1,100 emergency room visits, and 150 deaths as a result of air pollution around these plants. In addition, there were more than 238,000 restricted activity days reported as a result of poor air quality because of New York’s dirtiest power plants. The report shows that just under 75% of the premature mortality attributed to power plant emissions is due to the secondary particles formed from emissions of sulfur

dioxide, and a little over 15% is from secondary nitrate particles (49). This comprehensive report also lays out the annual costs associated with current power plant emission standards in the state. The report finds that more than $612 million is currently spent annually to cover the cost of health effects attributable to power plants. The largest portion of which is the cost to cover mortality for individuals over the age of 65 (49). The report also contains a side-by side comparison of Governor Pataki’s proposal and the cut levels recommended by the New York Clean Smokestacks Campaign. On September 14, 1999, Governor Pataki called for a 75% reduction in NOX and a 50% cut in SO2. In comparison, the Clean Smokestacks Campaign has called for bringing old plants up to new source standards (75% cut in NOX and SO2 and control for particulate matter) and establishing limits on mercury and carbon dioxide. The Pataki plan would be expected to save 50% of the lives that are lost as a result of power plant emissions and would also save almost 50% in health care-related costs. The Campaign plan would save an additional 25% of the lives lost as a result of emissions and would cost only 30% of what is currently being spent on health care costs related to air pollution (49). Mercury, another primary toxin emitted by power plants, is also of significant concern. Facilities that burn fossil fuels or wastes that contain mercury account for 87% of the total mercury emissions each year (50). In New York, 20% to 50% of the mercury emissions in the state are from power plants, and a fish advisory is in effect for fish species in 25 of the 200 tested waterways across the state (51). On June 26, 2001, the New York state assembly approved with overwhelming support two bills amending the environmental conservation law for the State of New York (A.5577-b and A.5203). The state senate must still review these pieces of legislation; however, if the bills take effect, they will require more emissions controls of power plants for NOX, SOX, and mercury to protect public health and the environment.

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


How Climate Change Could Affect Diseases Carried By Insects
Insects, called vectors, carry a variety of diseases. These diseases are transmitted when the insect bites a human (or another animal), who is already infected with a disease. The insect itself then becomes infected, and when it bites another human, the disease may be passed on from the insect to the human. Malaria and dengue fever are two examples of vector-borne diseases that may become more of a problem worldwide as average temperatures increase. Although the mosquitoes that can carry malaria already live in New York, and every year there are a few cases of malaria reported in New York, most of these cases are imported by travelers returning home from regions of the world where malaria is more common (63). The mosquitoes that can carry dengue fever do not yet live in New York, but do live in states just to the south such as Maryland. As temperatures increase, the type of mosquito that carries dengue fever may be able to migrate farther north into New York. Although there is some risk of these diseases infecting New Yorkers, many factors affect the likelihood that diseases like malaria or dengue fever will become a significant problem in the Northeastern U.S. Higher standards of living, less time spent outdoors in the daytime when the mosquitoes that carry dengue, for example, are more active, window and door screens, air conditioning, better mosquito control, and better public health infrastructure all combine to make large epidemics of these diseases unlikely even with rising temperatures (52). West Nile Virus, although new to New York, is probably not related to climate change. The mosquitoes that can carry West Nile Virus have lived in New York long before the West Nile Virus was brought to this country. This disease does illustrate, however, how important it is to strengthen and maintain the public health infrastructure so that new disease threats can be readily identified and addressed. In the year 2000, for example, twelve people were hospitalized with serious nervous system infections caused by West Nile Virus. Eleven of those individuals were from New York (64). New York State has developed a The Problem with Pesticides sophisticated monitoring and tracking To control insect numbers in New York, state health officials program to allow the State conduct aerial spraying where mosquitoes and other insects Department of Environmental Health tend to proliferate. A number of pesticides have been used, including organophosphates (e.g., malathion and fenthion) to share information with residents (55). These insecticides can cause harm to humans and the about the status of West Nile environment. In 1998 alone, more than 29.4 million pounds throughout the summer. This is a were applied by commercial applicators or sold to farmers centralized database of information (55). that can track infected crows, areas Pesticides can be absorbed into a person’s body by that have been, or need to be inhalation, ingestion, and skin penetration (56). Malathion sprayed, and any recorded human does not last in the environment as long as other cases (65). These systems are organophosphates and is therefore thought to be “safe” by important because they can help to some, but in 1975 malathion caused five deaths and 2,800 establish effective infrastructure for poisonings in Pakistan during spraying for malaria control. monitoring of other diseases that are Symptoms can range from headache, nausea, and dizziness, linked to climate change. to loss of consciousness, convulsions, and death (56).



Even though these diseases are unlikely to become epidemic in New York, climate change could lead to these, and other vector-carried diseases becoming epidemic in other parts of the world. When this happens, the U.S. and New York in particular because of its role as an international gateway, could expect an increase in imported cases (53;54).

How Can Insects be Controlled?
If pesticides are not used, how can the mosquitoes and the diseases they carry be controlled? In a healthy ecosystem, one that has not been poisoned by pesticides, there are many mosquito predators that help to keep the mosquito population (and other insect pests) under control. Fish, frogs and other amphibians, beneficial insects such as dragonflies, bats, and many birds have voracious appetites for mosquitoes and other insects. One bat can eat 3,000 mosquitoes in a single night (57 ). Bat populations have declined dramatically, and experts suspect this is from a combination of factors including poisoning from pesticides, habitat loss, and destruction of roosting sites (57 ). Regular “housekeeping” measures can also greatly reduce mosquito populations. Keeping urban drains clean and emptying containers of standing water can help to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds. Naturally occurring bacteria, which kill mosquito larvae but harm no other living creatures, can be used in ponds to keep mosquito populations low. People can also wear protective clothing and use insect repellents to protect against mosquito bites.

How Climate Change Could Affect the Supplies and Quality of Water and Food How Climate Change Could Affect Water Supplies

Water resources are affected by changes in precipitation as well as by temperature, humidity, wind, and sunshine. Changes in streamflow tend to magnify changes in precipitation. Water resources in drier climates tend to be more sensitive to climate changes. Because evaporation is likely to increase with warmer climate, particularly in the summer, it could result in lower lake and river levels. In addition, more intense precipitation could increase flooding. If streamflow and lake levels drop, groundwater could also be reduced (2). At this time, scientists are unable to predict whether streamflow in New York would rise or fall on average. However, there could be higher streamflow in the winter and lower streamflow in the spring and summer. Changes in the seasonality of streamflow would make it difficult for water supply systems in cities like New York to meet current demands reliably. In addition, higher temperatures and lower flow could reduce water quality in New York’s rivers and streams (2). Increased evaporation probably would reduce the average levels of Lakes Erie and Ontario by up to one foot. These changes could exacerbate water quality problems in those lakes, as well as in numerous smaller lakes in the St. Lawrence River basin. Lower water levels in Lakes Erie and Ontario would reduce flood damages, but shore erosion would increase from wind and rain (2).

How Climate Change Could Impact Agriculture
Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation are likely to have effects on agriculture in New York. Agriculture in New York is a $3 billion a year industry, two-thirds of which comes from dairy livestock (2). The major crops in the state are hay, corn, and silage. Whether yields ultimately increase or

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


decrease depends on many factors including water availability, changes in climate variability, and the ability and willingness of farmers to adapt to a changing environment. The diversity of crops and livestock in the state of New York is influenced by climatic conditions and water availability. As the temperature increases, production patterns could shift northward. Increases in climate variability could make adaptation by farmers more difficult. Warmer climates and less soil moisture due to increased evaporation may increase the need for irrigation. However, these same conditions could decrease water supplies, which also may be needed by natural ecosystems, urban populations, and other economic sectors (2). At this time, scientists cannot fully account for changes in climate variability, water availability, and farmer’s responses to the changing climate. Analyses based on changes in average climate suggest that overall U.S. food production will not be significantly harmed, although there may be significant local and regional changes (2).

Projected Impact on Forests
Global warming could also alter New York’s forests by influencing biological diversity and forest growth (2). Changes in precipitation, higher temperatures, and extreme weather events would lead to changes in species, geographic extent, and health and productivity. If conditions also become drier, the current range of forests might be reduced and replaced by grasslands and pasture. Even a warmer and wetter climate would lead to changes; trees FIGURE 5 that are better adapted to warmer Changes in Forest Composition conditions, such as Southern pines, might prevail. Forests could, under +10°F, +13% Precipitation Current these conditions, become denser. With changes in climate, the extent of forested areas in New York could change very little or could decline by as much as 10% to 25% (2). The types of trees dominating New York forests are likely to change. The predominant maple, beech, and birch forests found in northern and western New York would retreat northward. The brilliant autumn foliage of the maples eventually Conifer Forest Broadleaf Forest could give way to forests dominated Savanna/Woodland Grassland by oaks, ash, and pines. Across the state, as much as 50% to 70% of the maple forests could be lost. As a Changes in climate could have an impact on the types of trees result, the character of heavily visited dominating New York forests. There will be a potential increase in areas such as the Adirondacks may savanna/woodland and a decrease in deciduous trees like maple, birch, and beech. change (2).



The EPA suggests that some of these changes might occur within the next two generations, particularly if they are accelerated by other stresses such as fire, pests, and diseases which could be worsened by a warmer, drier climate (2).

This report reviews the threats to human health, particularly in New York, that could result from climate change. The U.S. has a greater ability to adapt to, and prepare for these changes than other countries due to our health care infrastructure and relatively strong economy. However, the potential health effects of climate change are serious and demand attention. Increased levels of heat, extreme weather events, vector-borne and water-borne diseases, air pollution, and compromised water supplies affect all Americans. The poor, elderly, young, and individuals with compromised immune systems will be the hardest hit. Many of the effects of climate change will be compounded by other environmental stresses such as pollution, increasing population, overharvesting of natural resources, and habitat loss. Thus, improving environmental practices and policies, such as decreasing discharges of pollutants into the soil, air, and water may help lessen the harmful effects of climate change on fragile ecosystems. We must act now to slow and eventually reverse climate change by significantly reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, we need to invest in strategies that will help us to prepare for what may come. It is essential that we formulate and implement plans to improve our public health infrastructure, including disease surveillance and emergency response capabilities. Continued research is needed to better understand the relationships among climate change, the health of ecosystems, and the health of the public.

Policy Considerations
The state of New York is committed to reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants and ultimately improving the health of New Yorkers, protecting the environment, reducing the impacts of global warming, and relying less on fossil fuels and more on innovative technologies to provide the energy that is needed. In September 1999, Governor George Pataki promised that New York would issue regulations to control nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants. In early June 2001, the Governor ordered that state buildings ensure that by the year 2010, at least 20% of their electricity is from renewable energy sources. In addition, the Governor also appointed a task force of industry leaders, state officials, and environmentalists to examine three primary issues: • Reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in New York; • Reduction of global warming; and • Assessment of federal emission standards for older power plants (58).

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


Since 1999, New York City has begun working with a tool for fighting future environmental challenges. In a yet unreleased study by Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Space Institute, recommendations are made that will help scientists and local government leaders make a plan to moderate future climate change in cities of populations of more than one million people (59). According to Rosenzweig’s study, there are three interacting elements of New York City that actually react and respond to climate variability and change: people (socio-demographic conditions), place (physical systems), and pulse (decision-making and economic activities). To understand these elements, five sector studies are projecting climate change impacts: Coastal Zone, Infrastructure, Water Supply, Public Health, and Institutional Decisionmaking. Each study is assessing potential climate change impacts through the analysis of the current conditions in the region, lessons and evidence derived from past climate variability, scenario predictions, critical issues, equity of impacts, potential non-local interactions, and policy recommendations (60). This study will help New York City and other large cities learn better how to handle environmental concerns like water supply, public health, coastal erosion, and wetlands. New York is one of the few states in the nation, however, that is starting to take action. Suffolk County is one of the first municipalities in the country to pass legislation that limits emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants. The legislature unanimously passed the bill, which was signed by the County Executive. Taking effect in March 2002, Suffolk County will regulate the emissions rate of carbon dioxide from power generators. The county backed this legislation because as this report has illustrated, Long Island has a great deal at stake in combating climate change. Long Island is a coastal region that will be detrimentally affected by rising sea level. The vote and passage of legislation sends a message that states and localities cannot wait for Washington, DC to make decisions about climate change, when climate change is impacting our states now. It is important to track and follow local, state, and federal legislation on issues of climate change, power plant emissions, air pollution, and energy. These issues are currently framing the debate across the country as to how to promote good public health in the current political climate. Immediate action must be taken, and diligent attention must be paid to cleaning up our air, reducing the levels of CO2 in our environment that are leading to global warming, and requiring that politicians and key decision makers do everything in their power to assist in the preservation and improvement of human health and the environment.



What You Can Do
What can individual New Yorkers do to reverse climate change and effectively work to protect the Clean Air Act? The number one priority is to lower the use of fossil fuels. Local, state, and federal government representatives should be strongly encouraged to support smart energy policies and the development and use of new technologies to reduce fossil fuel consumption and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions As an added benefit, the energy conservation techniques recommended here to combat global warming are very similar to those desperately needed to cut air pollution. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through sound energy policies is a win-win scenario because we will not only prevent the associated health effects of global climate change but also reduce the current threats to health from air pollution. In addition, these policies can increase our standard of living while reducing economic costs. Our quality of life in the future depends upon the actions that we take today. There is a lot that you can do in New York, starting now, to combat global climate change and bring down consumption of fossil fuels: Contact your local representatives, government officials, and mayor. Find out if your city or county has a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and, if not, encourage them to consider it. Demand userfriendly public transportation. Support efforts to refurbish old wastewater infrastructure in the state. Water systems in New York are vulnerable to contamination from pollutants and pathogens in untreated sewer water during flood events. Urge officials to continue to update sewer and flood water lines to avoid such problems in the future.

1 2 3

Contact your state representatives and Governor Pataki. Information regarding your state representatives can be found in the blue pages of your phone book. Encourage them to develop and implement state carbon dioxide emission reduction plans and to create incentives for citizens and businesses to make more efficient energy choices. For example, provide tax incentives for families that purchase newer cars with better mileage. Ask Governor Pataki to continue to support energy efficiency regulations, and encourage him to support shutting down or cleaning up old, dirty power plants, and to discourage the use and development of nuclear power. Contact your members of Congress and President Bush. Encourage them to adopt a balanced energy policy that promotes efficiency and use of clean, renewable sources of power. Specifically ask them to fund research and implementation of new, next-generation energy technologies, such as solar and wind power. This will not only give the oil supply that we have a longer life, but will also reduce the unhealthy pollution associated with both the burning and recovery of fossil fuels. • Clean Up Power Plants! Require that the power plants that were grandfathered under the Clean Air Act be cleaned up or shut down now.

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


• Support “four-pollutant” legislation regulating carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, and mercury. • Support an increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, or minimum miles per gallon standards, for cars, sport utility vehicles, and light trucks. • Support international agreements to lower global carbon emissions, and take responsibility for our disproportionate contribution of greenhouse gas emissions to the world’s climate change problem.


Get your own house and business office in order. Use energy-efficient light bulbs such as compact fluorescents. Install a solar system to help provide your hot water (carbon dioxide reduction 720 pounds per year). Recycle all of your waste newsprint, cardboard, office paper, glass, plastic, and metal (carbon dioxide reduction: 2,480 pounds per year). Lower your thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer, or use a thermostat that shuts off when you are not home, thereby reducing the demand for electricity and the burning of fossil fuels. When purchasing a home or remodeling, request efficient insulation, and energy efficient appliances, refrigerators, and water heaters. Be conscious of how your actions create carbon emissions. Americans’ love for automobiles contributes 30% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. As the population increases, so does pollution from cars. Do your part by carpooling and leaving your car at home as much as possible. When you do have to drive, keep your car’s tires properly inflated at all times. This ensures the maximum efficiency of your car. If your car’s tires are under-inflated by just four pounds, it could cost up to a half-mile per gallon of gasoline. When purchasing a new car, buy the most fuel-efficient, super clean vehicle that you can afford. At a website launched by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy ( you can do a side-by-side comparison and select the right car for your needs. Urge the businesses you patronize to become energy-efficient. U.S. businesses spend about $100 billion on energy each year to operate commercial and industrial buildings. By using energy-efficient products and procedures, organizations could reduce their energy use by 35% or $35 billion nationally. Numerous programs are now in place to help businesses change their energy use strategies and save money at the same time. Put your favorite business in touch with EPA’s Energy Star buildings program (1-800-STAR-YES, Work with local groups and chapters of national organizations to promote awareness of global climate change and related issues in New York. These include: • New York Public Interest Research Group: 9 Murray Street, New York, New York, 10007; (212) 349-6460; • Sierra Club New York Office:

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• New York Conservation Fund: nyceffactf.htm • Hudson River Foundation: 40 West 20th Street, 9th Floor New York, NY 10011; (212) 924-8290; • The Council on the Environment of New York City: 51 Chambers Street, Room 228, New York, New York 10007; (212) 788-7900; http:// • Environmental Advocates: 353 Hamilton Street, Albany, New York, 12210; 800-SAVE-NYS or 518-462-5526, fax: 518-427-0381; http:// • American Lung Association New York: 432 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor, New York, New York 10016; (212) 889-3370; newyork/. • New York City Environmental Justice Alliance: 115 West 30th Street, Room 709, New York NY 10001; (212) 239-8882; • New York Online Access to Health: Environmental Health Page; • Association for Energy Affordability: 505 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1801, New York, New York 10018; (212) 279-3902; • Center for Environmental Information: 55 St. Paul Street, Rochester, NY 14604; (716) 262-2870; • New York League of Conservation Voters: 29 Broadway, Suite 1100, New York, NY 10006; (212)361-6350; • Save Our Future Action Coalition: Box 776, Vails Gate, NY 12584; (914) 464-1702.

Health Effects of Climate Change and Energy in New York


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