clean energy is important for our health

220px-KnobwindmillNorth Carolina is a complex and multifaceted state. From the wild beauty of the Appalachian Mountains to the research and industrial facilities here in the Research Triangle, North Carolina thrives as much due to its people as its rich natural capital.

Thanks to these abundant resources, North Carolina has the third largest amount of installed solar in the United States. Our solar boom benefits the economy, creating thousands of jobs and saving residents’ electricity costs. By using more clean energy, we also avoid some very dangerous health threats, particularly for those who are most vulnerable – our children.

Asthma attacks are the top medical reason for missed school days. And the pollution from burning coal is a direct factor in causing asthma. But burning coal, gas and oil also affect our health and our economy indirectly, through their role in driving the climate disruption we’re experiencing here, and around the world.

To workers and farmers who spend their lives outdoors, a rise of even a few degrees mean the difference between successful harvest and a failure that can ruin a family’s farming business. (Not to mention the heat can keep our athletes from being able to practice outside in the spring or fall, a worry for sports fans across the state!)

Under warmer conditions, plants bloom sooner in the year and pollen counts grow stronger, worsening our allergies. Rising temperatures also raise the risk of heat stroke, a major health threat to children, outdoor workers and the elderly. All of these factors put our health, and our kids’ health, at risk.

Climate disruption doesn’t just mean more heat. It also means sea level rise, coupled with more intense storms and rain. As Hurricane Sandy demonstrated, higher seas and stronger storms can devastate infrastructure, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for expensive repairs and even potentially costing the lives of those caught in the crosshairs.

Our reliance on dirty energy threatens our health and our economy: from coastal real estate losses to the farmers struggling against increasingly unpredictable weather. Clean energy, on the other hand, makes North Carolina’s economy stronger, helps protect residents’ health, and keeps the state’s natural resources accessible and enjoyable for everyone, young and old.

A clean energy economy means good jobs and a thriving economy. It also means healthier families and a cleaner environment. Don’t we all want that?

This op-ed originally appeared in the Fayetteville Observer.