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EPA: Money, lives at stake

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion linked cli­mate change to hu­man health Tues­day, say­ing unchecked green­house gas pol­lu­tion could cause 57,000 deaths a year by 2100 from bad air and 12,000 from ex­treme tem­per­a­tures — find­ings Colorado law­mak­ers ad­dressed at a fo­rum.

“The chang­ing cli­mate that we’re caus­ing is an ex­is­ten­tial threat,” said Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lake­wood.

Com­merce City res­i­dents liv­ing close to in­dus­try “will likely have a shorter life span,” said Rep. Do­minick Moreno, who rep­re­sents that area.

The law­mak­ers gath­ered at the Univer­sity of Den­ver with fed­eral agency lead­ers as the White House and the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency un­veiled a re­port that quan­ti­fies im­pacts of cli­mate change, in­clud­ing bil­lions of dol­lars dam­age an­nu­ally from wild­fires, ris­ing sea lev­els and drought.

The EPA is tar­get­ing coal­fired power plants, try­ing to cut U.S. car­bon emis­sions to 30 per­cent be­low 2005 lev­els within 15 years. Pres­i­dent Obama is ne­go­ti­at­ing with other na­tions for re­duc­tions be­fore a sum­mit in Paris.

Ris­ing tem­per­a­tures fa­vor drought, which brings dust, wild­fires that re­lease par­tic­u­lates, and in­creased ozone pol­lu­tion, EPA re­gional cli­mate change co­or­di­na­tor Laura Far­ris said.

“Our con­cern here is ground-level ozone. ... Ozone is ex­ac­er­bated by oil and gas de­vel­op­ment, even in ru­ral ar­eas,” Far­ris said. “We’re con­cerned about the link be­tween ris­ing tem­per­a­tures and ground-level ozone.”

U.S. Health and Hu­man Ser­vices of­fi­cials plan to work with state and lo­cal agen­cies, “mak­ing sure they un­der­stand the im­por­tant con­nec­tion be­tween pub­lic health and the cli­mate,” re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tor Kim Gil­lan said.

Health work­ers said they’re see­ing im­pacts, such as in­creased asthma. The ef­fect of heavy ozone “is like sun­burn on the lungs,” Amer­i­can Lung As­so­ci­a­tion air pro­gram man­ager Kim Tyrrell said. “It has a cor­ro­sive long-term im­pact.”

En­vi­ron­ment ac­tivists reck­oned the health link may en­er­gize vot­ers.

“The doc­tor has said the planet has a fever. The pre­scrip­tion is to stop us­ing fos­sil fu­els,” En­vi­ron­ment Colorado global warm­ing cam­paign di­rec­tor Travis Mad­sen said.

“Peo­ple should un­der­stand threats to their health. It makes our sit­u­a­tion more ob­vi­ous in a vis­ceral way.”

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