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Big Oil is turning up the heat in public school classrooms
New study from the Center for Climate Integrity and Resilient Analytics finds public schools face billions of dollars in added cooling costs from climate change.
This week’s edition is written by our digital content strategist Abbey Dufoe. You can catch up with her on Twitter here.
Climate change is overheating classrooms in thousands of public schools across the U.S. In response, school districts across the country are struggling to keep classrooms cool and ensure that students can learn.
Our new study Hotter Days, Higher Costs: The Cooling Crisis in America’s Classrooms, released Wednesday, calculates that public schools in the lower 48 states that did not need air conditioning in 1970 will face a price tag of more than $45 billion to install and upgrade the HVAC systems needed to keep classrooms at safe temperatures by 2025 — costs directly attributable to climate change.
The study calculated that:
Schools in 10 states — California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — will each face more than $1 billion in new cooling equipment costs by 2025.
Four more states — Maryland, Indiana, Utah, and Idaho — each face $500 million in added school air conditioning costs by 2025, compared to the climate baseline in 1970.
New York State is confronting the highest cost in the nation to install new HVAC systems at $7.7 billion by 2025 .
Two school districts — New York City and Chicago — will each have to pay more than $1 billion to install HVAC systems by 2025, with 37 additional districts estimated to spend at least $100 million, mostly in older schools that did not need air conditioning when they were originally constructed.
It’s not news to readers of EXXONKNEWS that oil and gas executives knew for decades that their products caused climate change. Instead of adjusting course and leading the transition to clean energy, these corporate polluters engaged in a multi-billion dollar, decades-long disinformation campaign to lie to the public and delay climate action while they continued to pollute.
Now American public schools are paying the price. A growing number of school districts that did not need air conditioning in the 1970s have since had to install cooling systems as climate change increases the number of hot days during the school year.
Many major school districts that previously had air conditioning have had to increase their capacity — a process that will continue as the climate continues to become hotter.
Those costs are particularly high in low-income communities and communities of color with cash-strapped school districts, which are least equipped to fund the cooling needed to keep students safe and learning — yet are often most exposed to extreme heat.
You can read about the experiences of Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and other school districts with some of the nation’s highest costs in our community profiles, which we will be highlighting in EXXONKNEWS over the coming weeks.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress allocated new funds for K-12 public schools to make infrastructure improvements to safely reopen and operate. Yet global warming caused by fossil fuel emissions began pushing hot summer temperatures into the school year long before the pandemic, and costs to install, upgrade and operate HVAC systems will continue to rise as the climate continues to warm.
As the school year heats up, it will cost school districts nationwide an additional $1.5 billion to operate and maintain these climate-driven cooling systems in 2025, which would total $46 billion over the typical 30-year lifespan of a modern HVAC system.
These costs come when already underfunded public schools are faced with a growing list of priorities to keep kids healthy, safe, and engaged: protecting students from the threat of gun violence, modernizing classrooms and technology, feeding food-insecure kids, and protecting educators, staff, and students from COVID-19.
Students, educators, and taxpayers shouldn’t be left to shoulder these costs on their own.
And in ongoing climate litigation news, nine U.S. Senators have urged the Department of Justice to “reassess” its past support of Big Oil during the Trump administration in a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on May 10.
The Senators mentioned Garland’s promises to support environment justice — as well as President Biden’s campaign pledge to “strategically support ongoing plaintiff-driven climate litigation against polluters” — as reasons for the DOJ to review and reconsider its previous positions in climate accountability lawsuits.
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