For college kids, there’s nothing quite like that feeling of relief from a week off smack-dab in the middle of a stressful semester of writing papers and tests – especially if you are lucky enough to spend that week swapping scarves for bathing suits and cold winter weather for warm and white sandy beaches.
But whether you’ve saved up all year for a family beach vacation or just live in a community threatened by flooding or rising sea levels, the impacts of climate change will hurt all Americans. Our beaches and coastlines are vulnerable to contamination and the effects of climate change that make them less appealing and accessible to vacationers and residents alike. The problems are only getting worse – and they have implications far beyond ruining vacations.
Coastal areas in the United States are often susceptible to contamination from E. coli and other harmful bacteria, making our beaches dangerous to human health. And climate change is already eroding beaches that we have enjoyed for many years – researchers recently found that as a result of sea level rise, 31 to 67 percent of beaches in Southern California could disappear by 2100. Furthermore, extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy are increasing in frequency at an unprecedented rate, causing seven times as much flooding in coastal cities such as Miami and Atlantic City as there was just 60 years ago.
Unfortunately, President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency – and subsequent Executive Order rolling back the Clean Power Plan – may further threaten the health and existence of the beautiful beaches that we enjoy, instead of preserving them for future generations.
Protecting the health of our beaches and that of the people who enjoy these natural treasures are among the many important responsibilities of the EPA. Draconian budgets cuts such as those proposed by the Trump White House – which would cut the EPA’s beach protection programs almost entirely – impact programs that include funding to construct stormwater systems that prevent the spread of harmful bacteria to our beaches, helping states such as South Carolina monitor points of access to coastal waters for enterococci bacteria (which causes meningitis), and providing vital information on beach contamination, so we know when it is safe to swim.
The EPA is also responsible for implementing the Clean Power Plan, will help the United States achieve significant reductions of reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants by 30% by 2020, reduce the carbon footprint of our country and contribute to the global effort to fight climate change. Without policies such as the Clean Power Plan, the US will have fewer options address sea level rise, frequent storms, and other climate-related impacts in the future.
It’s unfortunate that the Trump Administration aims to slash EPA’s budget by a third and is already begun to roll back the progress we’ve made on climate and environmental protection. If we continue down the path of ignoring the health of our coastal regions and polluting our environment for years to come, we are looking at future spring breaks with shorter, dirtier, and more crowded beaches – and that’s not exactly how I picture my long-awaited spring break escape.