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Care About Air Quality? We’ve Got 5 Reasons to Sign A Petition Demanding Action on Climate Crisis

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

Climate change is more and more evident around the world, from storms and floods to droughts and wildfires. 

Pennsylvania is particularly problematic. The Keystone State remains among the heaviest fossil carbon emitters in the nation, and after a brief pandemic dip, our emissions are ticking up again. 

Sadly, the majority of Pennsylvania lawmakers are not taking climate change seriously, and this June activists from across the Commonwealth – GASP included – will converge on Harrisburg to call them to account for their inaction. 

This is where you come in. One of the things we’ll be taking with us to Harrisburg is a petition demanding aggressive Climate Action. Here are five reasons we think you’ll want to join us in signing it:

Reason #1. Fracking and Climate Change: How Emissions from the Oil & Gas Industry Are Fueling the Climate Crisis

Pennsylvania was the epicenter of the start of Marcellus Shale drilling boom, and all these years later state residents – especially those living in frontline fracking communities – know its impact on environmental and human health.

But how does the fracking industry impact the burgeoning climate crisis? Our friends at Food and Water Watch counted the ways in its blog, “9 Ways Fracking Is the Worst – Climate Change is Top of the List.”

Here’s an excerpt we found particularly relevant: 

Natural gas consists mostly of the potent greenhouse gas methane, which traps about 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Methane leaks from oil and gas operations, including pipelines, are the number one source of human-caused methane pollution in the country.

This means that the greenhouse gas footprint of fracked natural gas is actually worse than coal and oil because methane traps more heat in the atmosphere. Scientists warn that if our planet heats up 2° Celsius more, it could cause irreversibly destructive climate change. Fracked gas is no “bridge fuel” to renewables, it simply substitutes one dirty fuel (coal) for another (fracked gas), making climate change even more costly and destructive in the coming decades.

Reason #2: Coal & Climate Change: How Use of this Dirty Fossil Fuel Impacts the Climate Crisis

Transforming coal into coke, an ingredient in steelmaking is a dirty process; just ask anyone who lives in the vicinity of a facility like U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works. Local residents know that exposure to coke oven emissions is linked to myriad health problems such as respiratory and cardiovascular ailments and increased cancer risk.

For all those reasons and more, GASP has ramped up its outreach and educational efforts over the past several years to ensure southwestern Pennsylvania residents understand how emissions from coke production impact our region’s public health, focusing mostly on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). 

The human and environmental impacts of coke oven gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane can’t be ignored and their role in the climate crisis shouldn’t be, either. Indeed, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found fossil fuel emissions are the dominant cause of global warming. 

Consider this: In 2018, a whopping 89 percent of CO2 emissions in the United States emanated from fossil fuels and industry. It’s been estimated that fossil fuel emissions are responsible for one-third of the global average temperature increase that’s occurred so far. That makes it the single greatest source of global temperature rise. 

For all these reasons, environmental advocates at all levels are pushing for more stringent regulation of coke ovens. In fact, the Allegheny County Health Department is in the midst of updating its coke oven regulations right now. You can read the latest on those revisions, and GASP’s take on them, here.

Reason #3: Methane & Climate Change: How this Super-Potent Air Pollutant is Accelerating the Climate Crisis

Experts estimate that at least a quarter of today’s global warming is being driven by methane produced by human activity from the energy, industry, agriculture, land use, and waste management sectors.

Over the past year, GASP has shone a spotlight on one of the leading sources of methane in the United States: food waste. Nationally, one-sixth of our methane emissions stem from wasted food decomposing in landfills. The good news is that over the past few years, a local nonprofit has championed this issue and helped our area more efficiently tackle the food waste problem.

Since its inception, our friends at 412 Food Rescue have rescued has redirected more than 20 million pounds of food in the western Pennsylvania region, equating to 18 million meals and mitigating 11 million pounds of CO2 emissions in the process.

#4: Plastic & Climate Change: How Plastics Propel Climate Change

You might not realize it, but when you reach into the convenience store cooler for a beverage or other product packaged in single-use plastic, you’re indirectly playing into our air pollution problem. That’s because pollution abounds at every step of the plastic life cycle. 

Most plastics are made from fossil fuels, which produce numerous emissions when they are extracted from the earth. Some plastics contain phthalates, a class of chemicals used to soften plastics and convey other desirable characteristics. Unfortunately, these chemicals are also known as endocrine disrupters and human exposure, through ingestion, inhalation, and absorption. Exposure is associated with a range of health problems, ranging from infertility to cancer. 

Then there’s disposal to consider. While many consumers believe that plastics that can be recycled are recycled when they drop them in the weekly collection bin, that isn’t always the case. Here’s why:

Many common types of plastic can’t be handled by typical recycling equipment.  Sometimes these recyclable plastics are incinerated or simply landfilled instead, or wind up in waterways and ultimately the oceans, where they are often lethal to marine life. Only about 9 percent of all the plastic ever made has been recycled. 

Speaking of incineration…

Plastic decomposes at an extremely slow rate and is quickly filling up our landfills. However, more than 40 percent of the world’s garbage (including plastic) is incinerated instead of being shipped to dumps, resulting in dangerous chemicals being released into the air environment air, negatively impacting human health, and contributing to climate change.

Reason #5: Petrochemicals & Climate Change: Cracker Plants’ Role in the Climate Crisis

The extraction, production, transportation, and use of petrochemicals worldwide drive the climate crisis, while also polluting and degrading air, land, and water. 

The Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County will emit half as much CO2 as the entire City of Pittsburgh. The plant is expected to produce as much as 1.6 million tons of polyethylene pellets known as “nurdles” – much of which will be transformed into wasteful single-use plastics.

Studies predict cracker plants’ voracious appetite for natural gas will require more than 1000 new gas wells every three to five years, each emitting climate-disrupting air pollutants like CO2 and methane into the ambient air.

So, have you heard enough? Ready to sign? Here’s the petition – just fill in your info and we’ll take care of the rest! Easy peasy. 

Editor's Note: The deadline to sign the petition has passed. Thank you to everyone who joined us in demanding climate action!

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