Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category
Posted in Campaign Finance, Global Warming, tagged campaign contributions, campaign donations, Campaign Finance, campaign finance reform, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, super PAC, Voting Rights Act on April 2, 2016 |
If you pay any attention to politics, you might often wonder if the decisions being made are really what people want. The answer is often no.
Wealthy donors, including corporations and individuals, are able to contribute unlimited money to super PACs (political action committees) to support or oppose candidates for elected office. Although this money is technically separate from donations directly to candidates, super PACs are clearly working in lock-step with candidates’ campaigns. On top of that, the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission opened the door for unlimited spending on campaigns by political nonprofit organizations, which don’t have to disclose their donors. So, wealthy individuals and powerful business interests can secretly spend unlimited money on elections. And they are. This results in elected officials who are beholden to those wealthy donors, not the people. Does that sound like democracy?
In addition to the corrupting influence of money on politics, the basic right to vote is under constant attack. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, which required certain states, including Texas, to receive authorization from the federal government before changing how elections are conducted. That provision caused hundreds of proposed changes to be withdrawn or altered because the Justice Department was concerned that they may be discriminatory. Now, those states can enact potentially discriminatory elections laws and they much be challenged through the court system by those who are harmed. This adds expense and, much more importantly, results in the denying citizens their right to vote. Another major blow to democracy.
Enter Democracy Awakening. Over 200 organizations representing a broad array of interests – civil rights, the environment, labor, peace, students – are working together to bring national attention to the problems caused by the influence of money on politics and voter disenfranchisement. There will be a large rally and other events in Washington D.C. and supporting events in cities across the country on Sunday, April 17.
Austin Rally: Sunday, April 17 at 1 p.m. in the southwest corner of the Capitol grounds in Austin. There will be short speeches, music, tables with information and a march down Congress Ave.
Dallas Rally: Sunday, April 17 at 1 p.m. at the Reverchon Park Recreation Center (3505 Maple Ave). The event will include speeches, activities, tables with information and a march to Lee Park.
Regardless of what issue you care about most, the degradation of our democracy by denying voters their rights and allowing unlimited sums of money to determine political outcomes is a serious threat. I need look no further than my top priority, climate change, to see many examples of how money, not voters are determining policy decisions. A large majority of Americans want action to stop climate change, and yet Congress has failed to place limits or a tax on greenhouse gas emissions.
Please join us to rise up and defend our democracy by demanding reforms.
- Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 2867, S. 1659)
- Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 2867, S. 1659)
- Democracy For All Amendment (H.J.Res. 22, S.J.Res. 5)
- Government By the People Act/Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 20 and S. 1538)
- Fair consideration of the nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy
2014 and 2015 were back-to-back years that both earned the title for hottest year on record. and February 2016 was the warmest month, globally, ever recorded. And yet U.S. lawmakers continue to deny the facts. Earlier this month, the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) released an analysis of climate change denial in U.S. Congress called “The 2016 Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus.” Their research found that more than 63% of Americans are represented by someone in Congress who denies that climate change exists.
182 members of Congress don’t believe the science behind climate change: 144 members in the House of Representatives and 38 members in the Senate. 67% of Americans want the U.S. to take action on climate change, but 202 million citizens are represented in Congress by a climate change denier. Since the Republican Party’s platform on environmental policy never mentions climate change, it’s no surprise that every single denier is a member of the Republican Party.
A recent poll revealed that 76% of Americans believe global climate change is occurring, including 59% of Republicans. According to a poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, 67% of Americans support President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The results of these polls don’t correlate with the fact that that the number of Congressional climate deniers has increased from previous years. From severe weather, wildfires, drought, and flooding, climate change is impacting Americans every day, and it’s evident that human activity is the dominant cause. Despite this evidence, 70% of the Senate GOP still denies climate change.
In the analysis, CAPAF also looked into dirty energy money’s influence over Congress members. They found that climate deniers in Congress received more than $73 million in contributions from coal, oil, and gas companies. This is an increase of nearly $10 million from last year. When asked about their views on climate change, many deniers dodge the question by saying “they aren’t scientists”.
According to Sondre Båtstrand, a Norwegian researcher, the U.S. Republican Party is the only conservative party in the world which denies the reality of climate change. Båtstrand believes the GOP’s denial is due to three factors: the fossil fuel industry’s political spending, a commitment to free-market ideology, and the intense political polarization that punishes moderate-minded party members.
In February 2016, over 200 lawmakers in U.S. Congress signed onto a court brief opposing the president’s Clean Power Plan. At the end of 2015, the House of Representatives passed two resolutions to kill the Clean Power Plan. The Plan would regulate power plants’ carbon emissions and 67% of Americans support it. So it’s clear that Congress isn’t working the way it’s intended to. Members of the House and Senate are elected to represent the interests of American citizens, not their own fat wallets and the interests of dirty energy companies.
Regarding the state of Texas specifically, the 2016 Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus found that 17 out of 38 Texas Congressional members are climate change deniers. In 2016, this is not only unacceptable, but is dangerous for Texas families who depend on their elected leaders to protect their futures. When the impacts of climate change become more and more apparent each year – more severe storms, deadly wildfires, crippling drought, and rising sea level – it’s clear there’s no time to waste. Climate change deniers in Congress, like Ted Cruz, stand in the way of these common sense safeguards. Texans and Americans across the country deserve leaders who will stand up to face this threat head on – not those following the playbook of their largest campaign donors.
Posted in Global Warming on March 20, 2016 |
Please join Manage Austin Better and Change Austin next Thursday, March 24, for a citizens’ hearing to provide your views on how Austin’s city management is running our city. Unfortunately, the Austin City Council is not providing you an opportunity to speak at a public hearing on city management, so Manage Austin Better, Change Austin, and other groups are.
It is your city and you pay for the services – so your views matter. Please come and voice your opinions. The event will be recorded for Council viewing.
The Citizen’s Hearing on Why the 10-1 Council Needs New Management
Thursday, March 24, 2016
6:30 to 8:30 pm
Austin Energy Community Room
721 Barton Springs Road
Please reserve a free seat at www.ChangeAustin.org. And please fill out our city manager evaluation form here, which Manage Austin Better will also deliver to council.
Wind knocked out nuclear to take third place as one of the major sources of energy in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)’s system this year. ERCOT is the grid manager for the bulk of the state of Texas and stays on top of which power source is feeding into the grid at any given moment. Nuclear power met 15.1% of demand last month, coming in fourth behind natural gas, wind and coal.
In February 2015, wind supplied only 11.8% of ERCOT’s demand, behind natural gas at 47.6%, coal at 26.5%, and nuclear energy at 13.7%.
Led by Texas, the U.S. wind industry is booming and is expected to continue record expansion into the early 2020s due to the recent 5 year extension and phase out of its $0.023/kWh production tax credit.
Texas added 3,615 MW of new capacity in 2015, more than twice of Oklahoma’s total of 1,402 MW, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Texas now has an installed capacity of more than 17,713 MW, more than twice of Iowa’s 6,212 MW. Texas also had 53% of all U.S. wind capacity under construction at the end of 2015.
Due to a mild winter in Texas, demand declined in February. ERCOT’s system demand peaked on February 4 at 47,397 MW, down from the previous month’s demand peak of 49,250 MW on January 11 and the demand peak around same time last year at 54,539 MW.
A quick recap of the above:
- Electricity demand in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) fell February, but wind energy increased to supply nearly one out of every 5 MW of energy.
- Compared to February 2015, the ERCOT system used nearly 4.7 TWh of wind energy February, 14.3% more than the amount of wind energy generated at the same period last year, according to according to ERCOT’s monthly Demand and Energy report.
- Wind composed 19.9% of total energy on ERCOT’s grid in February, behind natural gas, which led with 43.2% of February demand, and coal, which supplied 21.2%.
Solar is making some inroads into the state’s power portfolio, but has not had the policy boost that wind got in 2005 with the passage of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Nevertheless, with costs coming down and with investments nationwide in utility scale solar “farms”, yet another renewable source is becoming a viable option for replacing fossil fuel sources of electricity. In another 10 years, Texas’ energy portfolio could look very different from that of 2015.
As a global industry, aviation produces 2% of the planet’s total carbon dioxide emissions. Its outlook isn’t good either, because it’s projected to grow by 3-4% each year as the industry expands. While air travel has become 70% more efficient per seat-mile than when jets first began operating in the 1960s, the industry’s growth has resulted in higher overall CO2 emissions.
NASA’s project LeapTech is in the process of testing a new approach to powering flight. The concept is called distributed propulsion, and it’s the future of low-carbon aviation. The project features a 30-foot airplane wing – the kind found on a small plane. The new wing design has 18 electric motors with small propellers along its leading edge.
Engineers attached the wing to steel supports on a Peterbilt truck, and have been simulating takeoff and landings at the Edwards Air Force Base in California. They have driven the wing-truck contraption down the runway at more than 70 miles-per-hour.
The idea behind distributed propulsion is to take the engines from their usual position hanging below the wings and put them elsewhere. Because jet engines are complex, heavy devices, distributed propulsion designs almost always involve simpler and smaller electric motors.
Distributing the motors around the plane (instead of in just one spot) has aerodynamic advantages. The position of the motors on the leading (front) edge of the LeapTech wing results in accelerated airflow over it, which increases lift at takeoff and landing. Because of this, the wing can be made narrower, which reduces drag and improves efficiency at cruising speeds.
In terms of reducing an airplane’s carbon footprint, the key is cutting down on the plane’s weight and drag, and reducing the engine’s excess fuel burn. Some planes have been partly redesigned. In the coming years, Boeing will introduce the 777x, a variant of their 777 model. However, the new design of the 777x features composite wings and more efficient engines than the traditional 777. But the basic design of airplanes still remains the same – a tube and wings.
Besides NASA’s LeapTech project, there have been other innovations in airplane technology. Engineers have made planes lighter by using composite materials, jet engines have become more efficient, and alternative biofuels are increasingly being used. Better management of airplane traffic at airports and in the air has also reduced emissions. Many of the aviation industry’s improvements involve changes to existing planes though – like replacing older engines with more efficient models, or adding winglets to wings to reduce drag and improve efficiency.
In the future, NASA thinks that planes could be powered by hybrid gas-electric systems or by batteries. Potential designs could have lighter wings that can quickly shape to handle turbulent air. Other concepts could eliminate the conventional tube and wing design for one that blends the two elements.
For NASA, the next step is modifying an actual aircraft to operate with batteries and wing motors. NASA’s LeapTech project uses batteries, but the modified aircraft will only be able to make short flights because of the current limitations of batteries. All-electric planes may never be a practical option, but a hybrid turbine-battery design could be a reality.
Despite these scientific advancements, emissions from the aviation industry are still growing at a rapid pace. The International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, projects that the worldwide commercial fleet will double to 40,000 airliners in the next 15 years. A recent report from the European Parliament revealed that international aviation could be responsible for more than 20% of global CO2 emissions in the near future. Aviation emissions impact cloud formation, ozone generation, and methane reduction, so the report’s projection isn’t a good sign.
In order to deal with the rising growth of the aviation industry, we must make drastic changes to airplane design to protect the environment. NASA’s LeapTech project is a step in the right direction towards making airplanes more eco-friendly, and more airplane engineering companies should take note.
Today, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts rejected a plea to stay or enjoin further operation of the Mercury and Air Toxics rule. This is a big victory for the Obama administration, the EPA and environmentalists.
Roberts’s order came despite his court’s 5-4 decision last year ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation, known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, is illegal, and he acted swiftly, waiting less than a day after the EPA’s response brief to side with the Obama administration. Furthermore, Roberts acted unilaterally, electing to reject the request himself rather than take it to the full court, which may have led to a 4-4 split following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.
The mercury pollution standards, made final in 2012, are a separate regulation from the more controversial and costly carbon dioxide limits for power plants that are also being litigated in court.
The Supreme Court put an unprecedented halt to the carbon rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, last month by a 5-4 vote, when Roberts chose to let the full court vote on the matter. Thursday’s action by Roberts is completely separate from that case and the EPA says it plans to finalize a fix to the rule to retroactively apply its cost-benefit analysis in the way the Supreme Court said was necessary by next month which should move the rule forward toward protecting public health.
If you felt like 2015 was exceptionally warmer than usual, you weren’t alone. Last month, scientists declared 2015 the hottest year on record. Some of this heat can be attributed to the El Niño weather pattern releasing heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere, but most of the record-breaking heat is from climate changes caused by human-related greenhouse gas emissions.
NASA, the National Aeronautics Space Administration, and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, both collected data that showed that 2015 was between 0.23-0.29 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than 2014. This number may seem small and insignificant, but in terms of global temperature, it’s a big deal. Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information emphasized that point:
This record, we literally smashed. It was over a quarter of a degree Fahrenheit, and that’s a lot for the global temperature.
In comparison to average temperatures in the 20th century, and not just 2014, 2015 was 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit higher.
The severe heat last year was felt around the world. There were record-high temperatures in the triple digits across Europe in June and July in Spain, Portugal, France, the U.K., Germany, and Poland. In May, India experienced 120 degree days that melted the asphalt, killing 2,500 people. In June, 1,200 people died in Pakistan after temperatures reached 113 degrees. When the atmosphere is warmer, it can hold more water vapor, which can cause an increase in heavy rains. The recent catastrophic floods in the eastern U.S. are evidence of this. El Niño is also disturbing atmosphere circulation which is causing some worldwide weather extremes like the drought in southern Africa.
So how will Texas be affected by this global climate change? With its location and vast size, Texas has a wide range of vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change. A study done by the Risky Business Project found that Texas will be one of the states that is most negatively affected by climate change.
- Decrease in worker productivity and crop yields.
- Sea level rise of 2 feet in Galveston.
- The number of extremely hot days per year (temperatures exceeding 95 degrees) will more than double from 43 to 106 days per year.
- About 4,500 additional heat-related deaths per year.
- A $650 million per year increase in storm-related losses along the coast, bringing the state’s annual damages to more than $3.9 billion.
The Risky Business Project’s mission is to convince business leaders in Texas that climate change is a true risk. This will not be easy since Texas lawmakers routinely dismiss climate change. Regarding the news that 2015 was the hottest year, NASA head Charles Bolden said, “This announcement is a key data point that should make policymakers stand up and take notice – now is the time to act.” That it is, Bolden.
The massive natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, CA, just outside of Los Angeles, has been temporarily capped. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the leak isn’t yet permanently stopped and that it has already done incredible damage over the 111 days it spewed methane and toxic chemicals into the air.
The state of emergency called by Governor Jerry Brown is still in effect for what is being named the largest environmental disaster since the BP oil spill. Over 94,700 metric tons of methane has escaped since October 23, which is one of the largest leaks ever recorded. This incident has taken California two steps back in its progress towards greenhouse gas emissions reductions especially since methane is 87 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. For perspective, the amount of methane released so far from the natural gas leak will have the same impact on climate over the next twenty years as emissions from seven coal power plants. Despite these environmental crimes, not one person has been arrested, although this past week, the citizens of Los Angeles County have begun taking legal action.
Southern California Gas Co (SoCal Gas), a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, is the responsible company for the Aliso Canyon Methane Leak, and is finally facing charges for this disaster. District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the criminal charges filed against SoCal Gas for failing to immediately report the gas leak at its Aliso Canyon facility to the proper state authorities. The site leaked for three days before SoCal Gas officials contacted the city’s fire department.
Major public health concerns are also leading to lawsuits. Residents across the county are reporting health issues such as nose bleeds, female health problems (excessive bleeding), rashes, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness, and have packed town hall meetings voicing their concerns. One Porter Rach resident, Christine Katz, stated, “Even though you can’t see the gas, it’s there. And that’s the saddest part — people don’t understand it. Because it’s not a mudslide, it’s not an earthquake. You just don’t see the devastation, but it’s there.”
SoCal Gas has yet to release a full listing of the chemicals being emitted from the leak, furthering distrust and anxiety from the community. Local law firms have organized a website (www.porterranchlawsuit.com) for citizens to reach out if they have been impacted. More than 25 lawsuits have been filed pursuing damages from the SoCal Gas and Sempra Energy. For example, a family of an elderly woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the gas company, claiming that the leaking chemicals led to the worsening of her health and untimely death this past January.
Legal actions will certainly hurt these gas companies financially, but is this an effective way of enforcing the law? History says no. Time and time again, environmental crimes are punished with fines, and these disasters continue to happen putting the public at risk. New regulations, transparency, and stricter criminal enforcement on the individuals responsible very well could bring justice in these incidents.
Crimes committed under a corporate veil are still crimes and should be treated as such. No amount of money will ever reverse the harsh health and environmental effects the Aliso Canyon Methane Leak is having on the region. But we can put into place policies that make corporations take the environmental risks of their operations much more seriously. A proactive justice process would be exponentially more effective means of dealing with environmental crimes than merely reacting after the fact.
Posted in Climate Change on February 10, 2016 |
Note: Late Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court halted implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan until legal challenges are resolved. Below are two statements from Public Citizen experts.
Statement of David Arkush, managing director, Public Citizen’s Climate Program:
We are extremely disappointed by the Supreme Court’s stay of the Clean Power Plan. The stay will delay progress on climate change at a time when we need much more assertive action. We urge states to continue writing their implementation plans under the rule while the litigation is pending, which they are free to do. State plans can benefit consumers tremendously by lowering electricity bills and boosting public health. Electric utilities are increasingly saying that the Clean Power Plan is workable. We cannot afford to lose any time working to stop climate change from devastating our economy and our planet.
Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, director, Public Citizen’s Texas office:
The Supreme Court yesterday stayed implementation of the EPA’s plan to control carbon pollution. But it can’t suspend the rules of nature, and nature will prevail.
A delay in implementing the EPA’s clean power plan will be very harmful to Texans.
Texas’ leadership has its head in the sand, but Texas will get burned because our state is likely to suffer devastating consequences from climate change – heat waves, drought, agricultural losses, dried-up lakes and rivers, higher utility and insurance bills, increased early deaths and increased spending on health care.
No state emits more carbon dioxide from its power plants than Texas, and Texas would benefit tremendously from a shift in energy sources because of our vast renewable resources and our potential to reduce energy use through efficiency, both of which are lower-cost options than retrofitting coal plants, and both of which would put money into Texans’ pockets. We could export our clean renewable resources to neighboring states. We could save the $1 billion we send to Wyoming to buy coal each year and reinvest it in homegrown Texas energy resources, reducing our bills and creating jobs.
The energy sector is changing. As Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said today, the changes in the energy sector will require planning. The challenge now shifts to the interim committees of the Texas Legislature to begin to develop plans to build new power lines and dispatch systems needed to meet the needs of the new energy sector that is developing, with or without new clean power rules.
The Austin City Council will vote this Thursday (September 17) on a resolution to push Austin Energy one step closer to signing contracts for up to 600 megawatts of solar energy. About 8,000 megawatts worth of proposals have been submitted, some at the lowest solar prices ever seen.
These are exciting times for solar energy – in Texas and around the world. Solar energy is finally cost competitive with fossil fuel-based energy. Utilities that have shown little or no interest in “going green” or being socially responsible are investing in solar. Luminant, Texas’ largest electric generating company, has traditionally invested in coal, but just last week, the company announced its first solar purchase. And in Georgetown, Texas the electric utility has signed contracts for wind and solar energy that it will have a 100% renewable energy portfolio by 2017. In the words of Georgetown Mayor Ross:
No, environmental zealots have not taken over our city council, and we’re not trying to make a statement about fracking or climate change. Our move to wind and solar is chiefly a business decision based on cost and price stability.
It is in this setting that the Austin Council will make its decision. Despite the record low prices, Austin Energy has pushed back against contracting for the 600 megawatts of solar that the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2025 calls for. The plan set a goal of 600 megawatts by 2025, but also states that the utility should contract for up to that amount by 2017, if available and affordable. Clearly it’s available.
The Electric Utility Commission (EUC), whose job it is to oversee Austin Energy, evaluated the impact on rates of contracting for 600 megawatts of solar. The Commission found that it would reduce rates in all but the first couple years and recommended that Austin Energy present its best plan for achieving an additional 600 MW of solar by the end of 2017. So, contracting for 600 megawatts of solar is also affordable.
Austin Energy executives have argued that prices could fall further, but how much they will fall and how fast are unknowns. The 30% federal solar investment tax credit declines to 10% at the end of 2016, so we can count on a price bump after that. As solar prices continue to decline, they will eventually make up for that lost tax credit, but will that be in 18 months, as Austin Energy claims, or longer. Solar companies are especially eager to get contracts right now, so that they can build up their portfolios before the tax credit is reduced. Austin Energy ratepayers could be the beneficiaries of that eagerness, if the Austin City Council decides to take action. If solar is even cheaper in 2018, Austin Energy can contract for more then. Either way, this 600 megawatts of solar, which would supply about 12% of the energy the utility sells, would be an affordable source of energy during times when electricity use, and therefor prices, are highest.
Affordable solar prices should make it easy for the Council to support a big solar buy, especially given that converting to renewable energy is a key strategy in achieving the city’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, or earlier. Climate change is happening now. For any entity (such as the City of Austin) that claims that addressing the problem of climate change is a priority, passing up opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emission while also saving money isn’t an acceptable option.
We are asking everyone to wear green to make it easy for the Council members to see how many clean energy supporters are there. We’ll be there starting at 5:30, and will have stickers and talking points for everyone. Parking is free with validation in the garage under City Hall.
Posted in Global Warming on August 27, 2015 |
What: Rail Safety Community Meeting
When: Monday, August 31 @ 6:30pm
Where: Magnolia Multi-Service Center (7037 Capitol St, Houston, TX, 77011)
Why: Join Congressman Gene Green, Senator Sylvia Garcia, and industry experts for a community meeting to discuss improving rail safety in urban areas.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations says July was Earth’s hottest month on record with an average temperature of 61.86 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the previous global mark set in 1998 and 2010 by about one-seventh of a degree. That’s a large margin for weather records that go back to 1880.
The world is getting hotter. And for those who work outdoors, climate change could mean very dangerous working conditions. As the heat index increases, stricter regulations and safety practices need to be implemented to ensure the health of our workers. Not doing so could be the difference between life and death.
People working jobs that require time outside, especially those working strenuous jobs outside must protect themselves from heat illness. The body is vulnerable to heat illness when our natural cooling mechanisms are not enough, allowing out body temperatures to rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken such as drinking water and resting in shade or air condition. Heat illness can take many forms, such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke which requires immediate medical attention, and can result in death. Extreme heat increases the chances of deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease as the raised levels of ozone and other pollutants in the air from climate change exacerbate these diseases along with increased pollen and other aeroallergen levels.
Most employers understand the risk of heat illness and prepare by establishing a heat illness prevention programs that provide workers with water, rest, shade and modified schedules for those who need to acclimatize to the hot conditions such as new workers or those who have not been working for a week or more. The danger increases when workers have to wear bulky protective clothing or take part in intensive work tasks; similarly, working in full sunlight can increase the heat index values by 10 degrees Celsius.
Though both employers and employees should understand these risks, there are still cases where heat illness caused death. Between 2008 and 2014, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) had 109 reports of workers’ deaths due to heat illness with 15 of those recorded in Texas. Though employers do not have to legally comply with the OSHA standards for heat illness prevention, they must have some version of such a program to protect their workers.
With recent increases in the global temperature due to climate change, conditions only become more and more dangerous for workers. In the last 100 years, the world has warmed by .75 degrees Celsius with the last 3 decades successively warmer since 1850. These increased temperatures are expected to cause about 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria and heat stress between 2030-2050. With increased average temperatures, more frequent and more intense heat waves are expected to occur. Throughout the U.S. the number of days with high temperatures above 90F is predicted to increase, especially in the Southeast and Southwest.
If the frequency of heat waves and extreme heat days follows this prediction, then all workers will be at risk for heat illness and even greater measures must be taken in order to protect their health. But more importantly, measures must be taken to prevent the increase of climate change in the first place—this problem that has the power to negatively affect every single aspect of our lives.