Climate change communication strategies: Maybe I should take it back…

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Earlier this week I pointed out that the top climate change nonprofits are not actively using health frames when talking about environmental issues. But, just a few days ago, when Congress passed the “Stop the War on Coal Act” the nonprofits came out in force, pointing out how lowering the bar for polluters raises the risk for public health. Sierra Club, in a news release on its website, pointed out that by passing the bill, republicans in the House “are seeking to lay waste to numerous public health protections critical to ensuring that American families have safe air and clean water.”

Sierra Club offers a nice summary of impacts from the potential legislation. Below is a list pulled from its website:

  • “Gut the Clean Air Act by repealing life-saving clean air safeguards against deadly soot and smog pollution and eliminate any national protections for toxic mercury;Bar the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing safeguards for carbon pollution by redefining the term “air pollutant” to exclude greenhouse gases;
  • Handcuff the Department of Interior from issuing safeguards to prevent streams from destruction if doing so would prevent the mining of a single lump of coal;
  • Allow for the uninhibited dumping of toxic, carcinogenic coal ash while allowing coal companies to avoid fixing unsafe coal ash dumps, cleaning up the sites they have contaminated, or preventing another catastrophic disaster like the Tennessee TVA spill in 2008;
  • Kill key pieces of the Clean Water Act that allow the EPA to enforce water quality standards and protect waterways from pollution;
  • Roll back recently finalized vehicle fuel efficiency standards that will save drivers thousands at the pump, reduce our dependence on oil and create jobs in the auto industry.”

Why the sudden focus on health? It appears that nonprofits do see the link between pollution and health, and I think the science would support that link. The link between melting ice caps and health is a bit more difficult to pin down. I appreciate that nonprofits are pushing the health message around the Coal Act, because it does, in fact, have consequences for the health of many Americans.

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