Misguided Measures Would Make Poor and Elderly Feel the Heat

Misguided Measures Would Make Poor and Elderly Feel the Heat

August 04, 1999
Originally published in The Tampa Tribune

 

Air conditioning is a wonderful technology. Not only does it allow us to beat the summer heat, but it also prevents heat-related illnesses and can even save lives. But environmental activists, both inside and outside the White House, seem intent on making it harder to enjoy the benefits of this life-enhancing technology.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported in 1996 that air conditioning is the most important factor in preventing heat-related death. That message is being reiterated once again across the Midwest, where nearly 200 people have died from heat-related illness.

Air conditioning could hive prevented nearly all of those deaths. Unfortunately, if green activists continue to get their way. future heat waves could become even deadlier.

Since 1996, the Environmental Protection Agency has prohibited freon production under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that banned it and other ,cheap and effective refrigerants, under "the, auspices of saving the ozone layer.

This treaty and other EPA regulations have increased the cost of air conditioning. For most people this is an annoying inconvenience, but for some, these restrictions are a matter of life and death.

Not content with the damage already done, the Clinton administration is pushing another international treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, that would further increase the cost of air conditioning, this time under the guise of preventing gobal warming.

The results could be tragic. Many of those who have died in this summer's heat wave were elderly and poor. They either didn't have air conditioning or couldn't afford to turn it on.

In St. Louis, one woman wouldn't let her son buy her an air conditioner because she was worried about the cost. An 88-year-old woman had an air conditioner but, according to her cousin, wouldn't turn it on because she didn't want-to run up the bill. Both were victims of the heat wave.

This deadly combination of poverty and old age has spelled tragedy for dozens of people, both this year and last. More than 100 people died in last year's Texas heat wave.

Nearly all of these deaths could have been prevented with air conditioning, according to health officials. Yet the. White House believes the solution to this problem is to cut energy use.

Environmental activists inside and outside the administration blame heat waves and deaths on man-made global warming caused by the use of fossil fuels.

Yet scientists are still not sure whether the burning of fossil fuels is raising the earth's temperature. Weather experts put much of the blame for the current heat wave on the weather phenomenon La Nina; not man-made global warming.

La Nina has caused cooler-than-normal surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean, creating a high-pressure system that is blocking cooler Canadian air from migrating south.

The evidence suggests the cause of the temperature rise is natural variation, not man. After all heat waves are common throughout U.S. history.

The summer of 1936 was the warmest on record for the St. Louis area. Since air conditioning didn't exist then, 421 people died from heat stress.

However, this history seems not to matter to the White House, which seems intent on forcing Americans to use less energy, even though the monetary and human cost may be tremendous.

At the environmental summit held in Kyoto, Japan; in 1997, the administration negotiated a protocol that, if implemented, would require the United States to cut energy emissions more than 30 percent by 2010.

Despite the administration's assurances to the contrary, the carbon taxes and other government regulations such steep cuts will require will almost certainly lead to higher energy prices.

If the Senate ratifies the Kyoto Protocol, higher energy costs will force more of the elderly poor to turn their air conditioners off, leaving them at the mercy of nature.

Many of the basic necessities, such as transportation, food and housing, will become more expensive as well. The poor would shoulder the heavier burden.

Those in Congress who have appointed themselves champions of the poor should take note of the serious consequences of taking air conditioning away from those who need it most.