Climate Change: Why I Care

By Katy Farber

November 16, 2016

Each day I wake up and try to make the world better for our kids. Whether it is in my education work, or in my work to advocate for a healthy environment, I want a healthier world full of boundless opportunity for our world’s children. We are global parents– all children are our responsibility.-

katy-farber-coverChildren hold the keys to our collective future, and when I say our kids, I don’t mean just MY kids. Our kids are every single child in this world. Those are the ones more greatly impacted by the increased air pollution generated by climate change. They are the most impacted by the poverty that comes from being a climate refugee and leaving their homes that are now unlivable. They are the very ones that are threatened with increases in infectious diseases as a result of higher temperatures. Children are our most vulnerable and they are the most impacted by climate change. We cannot let them down. We cannot let anything stop us from the important work of standing up for children everywhere who have no voice.

Katy FarberWomen hold the keys to economic success. Women who have good good health care, education and opportunities move out of poverty more quickly. Cycles of poverty, illness, and early death can be broken if we build safety nets around women so they can grow and thrive. Climate change threatens this critical work. Because women assume more caregiving roles, as the climate warms, it becomes more challenging to find healthy water and feed families. This takes up women’s time and limits their ability to build strong economies and futures for their families.

In our modern day world, having a baby should not be so dangerous. All women deserve access to a safe and healthy birth. And all children deserve a healthy start to life. We must support strong care programs for our newest mothers and give them every chance to start their parenthood in a safe, happy and healthy way. This is the sisterhood of motherhood. Our privilege in the U.S. gives us more responsibility in this regard.

These are only two of the reasons I care about climate change. I am happy to join Global Moms Challenge, and the United Nations to call for action on climate change at the COP22 conference to protect women and children from the harmful effects of climate change, and I hope you will join me.

We have much work to do.

When gasoline prices fall or the economy grows, people may have more money to spend, but there can be an unexpected downside. Traffic fatalities often increase because additional drivers take to the roads. Now, economists have established that another seemingly auspicious occurrence has a dark side: nice weather.

That’s the surprising finding from a pair of economists, who investigated how climate change may affect traffic accident rates in the United States over the next century. They announced their results this month at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in San Francisco.

The researchers analyzed data from about 46 million police-reported accidents from 20 states, daily travel logs of 207,455 households, and weather from 2,607 stations in the United States between 1990 and 2010. Not surprisingly, they found that when the temperature is below freezing or if it’s raining or snowing, the risk of accidents involving property damage or injuries increases. You can easily prevent the most common traffic accident situations by taking traffic school classes online every year.

While warm weather had little to no effect on those types of accidents, the researchers did find that fatalities rose as the weather improved — by 9 percent on days with temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit compared to days with temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It’s a striking result that we didn’t expect,” said co-author Benjamin Leard, an environmental economist at Resources for the Future (RFF), an environmental economics think tank in Washington, D.C.

In search of an explanation, Leard and co-author Kevin Roth, an environmental economist at the University of California, Irvine, looked to the travel logs, which included information about walking and biking, as well as driving. They found that half of the effect appeared to be due to people taking advantage of the warm weather to walk, bike, or ride motorcycles — modes of transportation that provide less protection in a crash, said Leard.

To explore how climate change could affect traffic fatalities, the researchers applied their results to a “middle-of-the-road” future climate scenario, which estimates a 4 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature by the end of the century, detailed in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The recent Paris climate deal maintains that global average temperature should be kept “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid catastrophes such as food shortages and mass extinctions of plants and animals. Many scientists believe the Earth will exceed 2 degrees of warming despite the new deal’s aims.

In their analysis, the researchers predict that as the planet warms, there will be a net increase of about 650 traffic fatalities—mostly pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists — each year in the U.S. by 2100. Their findings have not yet been formally peer-reviewed by the academic community.

Still, there are roughly 30,000 traffic fatalities every year in the U.S. While an additional 650 each year “isn’t huge” said Leard, “it isn’t trivial either.”  Measures that reallocate street space for cyclists and pedestrians could prove useful in curbing the additional deaths, he said.

In all, the economists estimate that the additional traffic accidents will end up costing society a total of $58 billion across the country by the end of the century. That’s comparable to similar estimates of the cost of the effects of climate change on crime, published last year in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, said Leard.

The research assumes that transportation as we know it today will look the same a hundred years from now. But self-driving cars, already under development, may avoid accidents better than their human-operated counterparts, no matter the weather. If the technology becomes commonplace, that could drastically reduce the total number of traffic accidents — including those related to the weather — and render the economists’ projections too high. No matter how driving changes this century, there would still likely be a number of accidents that occur that would not have happened if temperatures had not increased.

And the research doesn’t explore other ways the changing climate could affect transportation in the U.S. in the near future — from creating more potholes due to different cycles of freezing and thawing to extreme rainfall events or rising seas washing out roads and bridges.

“While it’s true that the weather has some impact on accidents and fatalities, it’s climate change’s impacts on our transportation infrastructure that’s really something to think about,” said T. Donna Chen, a transportation engineer and economist at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, who wasn’t involved in the research.

Take Action Challenge 
Share your call for action for our earth. Become part of the EarthTo movement. Right now follow #EarthToMarrakech on your favorite social channel to learn what’s happening right now at the UN’s climate summit, COPP22.

Learn more and connect with Katy at Follow her on Twitter at @non_toxic_kids.

Share this post!