NJ air pollution, climate change requires stopping investments
New Jersey residents breathe the most polluted air in the country, with the American Lung Association giving 8 of our 21 counties an “F” air quality rating earlier this year. Between dirty vehicles filling New Jersey highways, dirty polluting industries statewide, and pollution from surrounding areas, our state’s air quality is increasingly under attack and marginalized communities are the first. and those most affected by health impacts. However, the Build Back Better Act, President Joe Biden’s budget proposal that is currently under consideration in Congress, offers an opportunity to get dirty vehicles off the road and revitalize our infrastructure for healthier, more breathable air. and a more secure climate.
As a pediatric nurse, I work closely with patients who suffer from respiratory problems associated with air pollution, such as asthma and severe allergies. I know firsthand the harm that polluted air does to children and families in New Jersey. It is quite clear to me that we need to redouble our efforts to reduce pollution from fossil fuels, support our state’s transition to 100% renewable energy, and ensure that environmental justice is at the heart of our way. to be continued. This is why one of my areas of interest is the transition to clean transport. We cannot tackle air pollution and tackle the climate crisis without clean vehicles. Dirty vehicles are our nation’s biggest contributor to carbon pollution, making it a direct threat to public health, our environment and fairness.
While air pollution poses a threat to everyone’s health, children are particularly vulnerable. Many children are exposed to high levels of air pollution from their school buses, which can cause and worsen respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, in their developing lungs. In New Jersey, more than 7% of children have asthma. Asthma rates are even higher for New Jersey children in black and other communities of color due to the disproportionate proximity to power plants and highways.
To ensure a better future for our children, we must clean up our transport sector. No child should get sick trying to get to and from school. While many local governments in New Jersey are working hard to tackle pollution and the climate crisis, we cannot do it alone. That’s why we need the support of our elected leaders in Washington to adopt the BBBA, which effectively reduces carbon pollution and tackles the climate crisis. Prioritizing climate action with historic investments in clean transport, energy and infrastructure is key to building a healthier, cleaner and more equitable future.
As one of our nation’s leading energy states, the energy sector is a crucial part of New Jersey’s workforce and economy. Before the pandemic, clean energy jobs were growing faster than the economy as a whole, and in New Jersey in particular, the clean energy economy provided about 51,000 jobs with plenty of room for growth. With bold investments to develop clean energy, New Jersey has a real opportunity to accelerate the transition to clean vehicles while creating new, well-paying union jobs and making the air safer for all of us.
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The harms of air pollution are all around us. Our neighborhoods are hazy with smog. Our children’s lungs are battling pollution from dirty school buses. Extreme weather events, made worse by carbon pollution, are increasingly frequent and difficult to overcome, as evidenced by recent flooding from Hurricane Ida that hit parts of New Jersey and left 30 people dead. Now is the time to act.
The Build Back Better Act currently under consideration by Congress prioritizes the bold investments we need in clean energy and transportation infrastructure. It is essential to our health, our environment, and our economy that the New Jersey congressional delegation, and in particular my own congressional representative, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-Wyckoff, endorse this budget proposal. They have a real opportunity to lead our great state into a future where our children can ride their school buses without developing asthma, a future where our landscapes can be enjoyed without a haze of smog pollution, and a future where our air is safe. clean to breathe. .
Jill Aquino is a nurse practitioner and member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. She worked as a school nurse for over 16 years.