Pulitzer Center Update

Pulitzer Center Executive Director Writes Op-Ed on Climate Change

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Executive Director Jon Sawyer discusses "Facing Risk," a film that explores the risks associated with reporting and the conversations journalists owe their loved ones. Image by Jin Ding.

Executive Director Jon Sawyer discusses "Facing Risk," a film that explores the risks associated with reporting and the conversations journalists owe their loved ones. Image by Jin Ding. Washington, D.C., 2016.

Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer co-authored "How Cities Are Leading The Way On Climate Change," an op-ed for WBUR's Cognescenti blog with Patrick Kinney, the Beverly Brown Professor of Urban Health and Sustainability at Boston University School of Public Health. 

In their commentary, Sawyer and Kinney look at how to best mobilize city dwellers to approach climate change as something that will have a direct impact on their own communities, future generations, and themselves.

The recent commitments to make Boston a carbon neutral city by 2050 is a jumping off point to examine the direction in which cities are heading when it comes to addressing the local benefits of action to combat climate change.

Sawyer and Kinney write:

Cities are where the ill effects of sea level rise, severe storms, heat waves and air pollution are usually the most severe, but also are where action to solve climate change has been most active in recent years.

One of the biggest benefits of climate action is clean air.

Most steps that cities can take to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, such as clean vehicles and renewable energy for buildings, lead directly to fresher, healthier air.  The results are fewer sick days and less medication for children who suffer from asthma. It also means longer life expectancies, by reversing the gradual but insidious pollution-caused changes in our bodies that can result in heart disease or lung cancer.

These benefits begin immediately and can be large. The Clean Power Plan proposed under the Obama administration, for example, would have resulted in thousands of fewer premature deaths per year, hundreds of thousands of fewer missed days of school or work due to illness, and many other near-term health benefits. The Trump administration has proposed to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, coming at a high cost to human health.

In addition to clean air, increasing the prevalence of low-carbon transportation options, by designing cities that weave walking and biking opportunities into the fabric of everyday life, can help people get moving. According to recent studies, even small shifts away from commuting by car can have profound benefits for our heart health and help to reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

The full op-ed is available on WBUR's Cognescenti blog. 

Jon Sawyer will further the discussion on climate change at "Changing the Climate: How Public Health, Cities, and the Media Can Advance Climate Solutions," a Boston University School of Public Health symposium on Friday, April 20, 2018. More information can be found at the Boston University School of Public Health website.