With floods and tornadoes, Ky suffers from climate change. New federal laws will help.

Those hoping to keep Kentucky livable for our children and our grandchildren can celebrate climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act. This bill recently passed in both Houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Biden. The law invests in clean technologies and will reduce greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide and methane. These gases absorb energy reflected from the earth that would otherwise harmlessly go into space. That absorbed energy heats the air and makes the earth’s land and oceans hotter.

We must reduce greenhouse gases and slow climate change because it is killing us and costing us money that we cannot afford. Eastern Kentucky just suffered catastrophic floods, the worst ever recorded. Gov. Beshear announced a 39th death on August 12. Western Kentucky suffered violent storms and tornadoes in December, killing 80. And we are not alone in suffering climate disasters. In the midst of a record Texas drought, parts of Dallas were flooded by heavy rains – 13 inches in just 12 hours, killing at least one person. Earlier in the summer, St. Louis was slammed with up to 12 inches of rain in a day, followed by more rain two days later, killing at least two people. Once-in-a-1000-year storms have become common. The human suffering is heartbreaking. On top of that is the monetary damage. We don’t yet know how much the Kentucky, St. Louis, and Dallas floods will cost, but it will easily total more than $1 billion.

We are being cooked in record heat caused by greenhouse gases, which kill even more people than the terrible storms. And, extreme heat blunts crop yields, lessens crop quality, and hurts cattle and other food animals. Even worse, burning fossil fuels gives off air pollution that kills 300,000 Americans every year, causing asthma, heart attacks, strokes, and more.

Some argue that we cannot afford to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution. That is like saying that we cannot afford surgery to remove a small colon tumor and instead we should wait until a magic cure is discovered. This is foolish because a growing tumor will metastasize and kill. Even if the patient survives, the treatment will cost much more. The greenhouse gases that make us sicker now will assault future generations. The carbon dioxide that we put in the atmosphere likely will last 300 to 1,000 years and will be harder to remove later than to prevent now.

The tide is beginning to turn and is creating quality jobs. On August 30, ground broke on a $2 billion Envision AESC “gigafactory” in Bowling Green that will make electric vehicle batteries and create 2000 skilled jobs. This groundbreaking came months after announcement of the $5.8 billion BlueOval SK Battery Park in Hardin County to produce Ford electric vehicle batteries. This heartening news comes on top of Toyota’s $461 million reinvestment, which will, in part, go to vehicle electrification. Also, Nemak Kentucky plans to invest $27 million and create 170 jobs in Glasgow. These are good, high-paying jobs in growth industries. Gov Beshear has announced more than $8.5 billion investment and more than 8,000 jobs in the electric vehicle sector in the last few months. The Inflation Reduction Act will accelerate Kentucky’s growth.

Although more needs to be done, we celebrate our victory. I say “our” victory, because the Inflation Reduction Act will benefit all people and every living creature. I am grateful for grassroots support from the Citizen’s Climate Lobby and other organizations. I applaud Kentucky’s Rep. John Yarmuth’s Yes vote.

Dr. Charles Lutz
Dr. Charles Lutz

Charles T. Lutz, MD, PhD Dr. Lutz is a clinical pathologist and research scientist at the University of Kentucky.