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Editorials

Rising cost of climate inaction

While the Obama administration and Congress continue to delay a serious, comprehensive approach to climate change, the very real economic effects on Hoosiers are mounting.

As Dan Stockman’s story Wednesday explained, 2012’s record high temperatures caused greater amounts of ozone pollution in Allen County’s air. Continued increases could bring the county under stricter federal guidelines, which could easily limit the addition of new industries in the county and force some existing industries to reduce air pollution. A violation could also redirect federal money used for roads away from state and local priorities.

And, of course, those are just direct economic effects. The health effects are not only dangerous but costly. Inhaling ozone can damage lungs, causing coughing, breathing problems and chest pain. Ozone exposure can be even more dangerous to people with asthma and other respiratory problems.

Exceeding U.S. air pollution standards is increasingly a big concern in U.S. cities. In August, San Antonio was found in violation, ending its status as the largest U.S. city consistently meeting EPA standards. In October, Louisville officials expressed concern about the city’s status after recording 23 days of exceeding ozone standards. Last month, the EPA rejected appeals for Tennessee counties including and surrounding Memphis and Knoxville, designating them as failing to attain ozone standards.

Meanwhile, Midwestern businesses are coping with lower water levels that affect shipping not only on the Mississippi River but also on the Great Lakes. In particular, both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan experienced record low levels in December. Already that is affecting companies like the major Indiana steelmaker ArcelorMittal, because it must lighten the weight of ships carrying iron ore into the Indiana Harbor in northwest Indiana. Lighter loads mean more shipments, and that increases costs.

“For every six trips a ship makes, ArcelorMittal pays for a seventh to make up the difference,” Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5 reported. “The result is a pricier bottom line for the thin, high-quality steel used to make everything from refrigerators to coffee machines.”

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to dredge the harbor this year for the first time in 40 years. But the benefits of dredging are only temporary – and, at Indiana Harbor, environmentally challenging, because dredging will stir up toxic waste.

Climate change deniers constantly discuss the economic costs of reducing ozone pollution, but the economic costs of inaction must also be considered.

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