This entry originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
Earth Day is one of the best times of the year to remember responsible environmental stewardship appeals to all Americans.
Teddy Roosevelt helped preserve the country’s natural landscapes by establishing the national parks system. Presidents Nixon and George H. Bush recognized a world leader like the U.S. should guarantee clean water and air for its citizens by signing the Clean Water Act and amending the Clean Air Act, landmark pieces of legislation.
No one wants their children drinking dirty water or breathing polluted air; we want to ensure a safe environment for our families.
Yet, there’s more the U.S. can do to fulfill that promise.
A new report from the American Lung Association (ALA) finds 166 million Americans live in areas with unhealthy air, and over 52 percent of U.S. counties struggle with harmful levels of ozone or particulate pollution. This can create smog and trigger asthma attacks, endangering our health and welfare, not to mention hurting our wallets.
Tapping into homegrown wind power already helps cut out these types of health-harming air pollutants.
In 2015, wind power cut 176,000 metric tons of sulfur dioxide and 106,000 metric tons of nitrogen oxides, some of the main culprits that cause smog and respiratory issues. These reductions created $7.3 billion in public health benefits just last year, and that number will continue to grow as more clean wind power displaces dirtier conventional fuels.
By 2050, wind could supply 35 percent of America’s electricity. If we hit that target, it could create $108 billion in public health benefits while avoiding 22,000 premature deaths.
Making sure our families can enjoy clean air today and in the years ahead also means we must reduce carbon pollution.
As the ALA explains, “Increased heat, changes in climate patterns, drought and wild fires are all related to climate change, which has contributed to the extraordinarily high numbers of days with unhealthy particulate matter. The particles—emanating from wildfires, woodburning devices, coal-fired power plants and diesel emissions—are so small that they can lodge deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes, and can even be lethal.”
Wind energy helps remedy these environmental and public health complications because it remains the biggest, fastest, cheapest way to cut carbon pollution. That’s particularly important to remember as the U.S. looks for ways to keep the promises it made under the Paris Agreement, just signed today.
In 2015, wind reduced over 28 million cars’ worth of carbon dioxide pollution. That’s equivalent to eliminating all power sector CO2 emissions from Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado combined. Through 2050, wind could help avoid $400 billion in climate change damages.
Because wind power is often the cheapest source of new electric generating capacity, we can expect to see even more of these benefits in the coming years.
Wind energy was the largest source of new electric generation to come online in the U.S. last year, more than solar or natural gas. American innovation and improved domestic manufacturing have cut wind’s costs 66 percent over the last six years, and there’s now enough of it to power 19 million American homes.
We only have one planet. Practicing good stewardship is our duty if we want to ensure a prosperous future for our families, and keeping our air and water clean by growing wind power benefits our health and our wallets. It’s an American tradition.