Earlier this month, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) welcomed the Biden Administration’s establishment of the new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, the first government office that will focus specifically on the public health dangers of climate change. As the office begins its critical work, Harder is pushing its leadership to prioritize the impact of wildfire smoke on asthma rates in the Central Valley and throughout the West. Earlier this year, Harder pushed expert witnesses on exactly this topic as increasingly severe wildfires are creating worsening air quality in the Valley.
“When Friday night football games across our community can’t happen because these massive wildfires have made the air unsafe for our kids to breathe, it’s clear we have a serious problem on our hands,” said Harder. “One in six of our kids has asthma and the air is just getting worse. I’m encouraged to see the administration taking the link between climate change and health in communities like ours seriously and I’m looking forward to working alongside anybody who wants to fix this. Our kids deserve better.”
Presently, many cities in the Central Valley are classified as some of the most polluted in the country, one out of every six children have asthma in the Valley, and wildfires are known to be directly tied to decreasing air quality across the region. Rep. Harder himself suffered from childhood asthma growing up in Turlock.
Also this past week, Harder sent a new letter to President Biden and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell in support of the State of California’s request for a major disaster declaration in response to the ongoing extreme drought and wildfire conditions. A major disaster declaration would unlock resources and coordination to help Central Valley farmers and communities adapt and recover from the dual threats of extreme drought and wildfires. Right now, almost 50 percent of California is experiencing the most extreme category of drought measured by the US government.
“Farmers in the Central Valley are making the hardest decisions imaginable right now – whether to tear up their orchards and fallow their fields because they just can’t get enough water. At the same time, this drought is fueling wildfires that are so bad they’re polluting our air and endangering our communities,” said Harder. “For months I’ve been sounding the alarm bell on the crisis of extreme drought and wildfire in our state, and now I’ve written directly to President Biden and Administrator Criswell so we can get the resources we deserve. Our Valley feeds the nation and I won’t let it run dry.”