Obama On Climate Change: "Time Is Not On Our Side"
Forget that Evangelical Republicans favor President Obama's approach to climate change. You would be crazy if you thought right-wing hacks like John Boehner would ever put partisan considerations aside for the good of the country, mankind and the planet. "The president’s energy tax," as Boehner put it yesterday, "is an expensive, arrogant insult to Americans who are struggling to make ends meet."
Jeb Bush, who tries passing himself off as vaguely mainstream while still appealing to the lunatic fringe extremists that determine who wins his party's nomination, called Obama's carbon rule "irresponsible and overreaching."
The rule runs over state governments, will throw countless people out of work, and increases everyone’s energy prices. The fact is, U.S. emissions of greenhouse gasses are down to the same levels emitted in the mid-1990s, even though we have 50 million more people. A chief reason for this success is the energy revolution which was created by American ingenuity-- not federal regulations. Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy. The real challenge is how do we grow and prosper in order to foster more game-changing innovations and give us the resources we need to solve problems like this one.Nice that Jeb acknowledges that there is a problem-- that's his nod to the mainstream-- but he still opposes doing anything about it, the nod to his crazy Foxified party base.
[D]ecreased emissions have been driven by a few key things: efficiency improvements (largely encouraged by policy decisions), improvements in the transportation sector (largely encouraged by policy decisions), and a dramatic shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas, wind, and solar. Those, too, have been encouraged by policy decisions. All three of these technologies were supported by the Department of Energy. For wind and solar, those technological investments were followed by tax credits.
This is not pointed out to diminish the role of American ingenuity. In the past decades, the solar and wind industries have appeared virtually out of nowhere, largely on the backs of creative business models allowing the new technology to compete with entrenched fossil fuels.
Getting back to into Bush’s statement, let’s look at benchmarks. A decrease to mid-1990s levels-- while impressive-sounding-- is not going to be enough to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Scientists at the International Panel on Climate Change estimate that the United States needs to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050. In other words, 1990 levels are not going to cut it.
Does Bush know this? He does, at least, believe climate change is a problem to be solved.
“Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy,” Bush said in the statement Sunday. “The real challenge is how do we grow and prosper in order to foster more game-changing innovations and give us the resources we need to solve problems like this one.”
In one statement, Bush has recognized that climate change is a problem to be solved, but side-stepped what it will take.
Still, this is different from how he has talked about the problem in the past. This spring, he said people who accept the science of climate change were “really arrogant.” Of course, a month earlier, he told prospective voters in New Hampshire, “The climate is changing, and I’m concerned about that.”
Bush has backed himself into a corner here. “I don’t think it’s the highest priority. I don’t think we should ignore it, either,” he said at the time. “Just generally I think as conservatives we should embrace innovation, embrace technology, embrace science.”
So, climate change is a problem, but we shouldn’t worry about it. We should do something about it, but we shouldn’t use regulation.
McCain, another wingnut who occasionally plays to the mainstream on TV, tweeted that "Pres Obama's #CleanPowerPlan is yet another unconstitutional exec action that will hurt US businesses & consumers."
Yesterday's announcement was one crucial part of Obama's battle against climate change in the light of Koch-purchased Republican opposition to doing anything at all. These are some of the actions he's taken without any backup from a short-sighted and cowardly Congress which Jeb somehow failed to acknowledge:
• Stricter fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks, which will steadily rise through 2025.
• Stricter fuel-economy standards for heavy trucks, buses, and vans, which will steadily rise through 2027.
• Proposed CO2 emission standards for any new coal- and gas-fired power plants built in the United States. This rule, when finalized, will make it extremely difficult to build any new coal plants that don't capture and bury their carbon-dioxide emissions (a still-nascent technology).
• Standards to curtail methane leaks from all new oil and gas wells, as well as voluntary partnerships to limit methane from agriculture.
• Various initiatives to curtail hydrofluorocarbons, another potent greenhouse gas used in air-conditioners and refrigeration.
From the President's remarks yesterday:
Now, not everyone here is a scientist but some of you are among the best scientists in the world. And what you and your colleagues have been showing us for years now is that human activities are changing the climate in dangerous ways. Levels of carbon dioxide, which heats up our atmosphere, are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years; 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. And we've been setting a lot of records in terms of warmest years over the last decade. One year doesn’t make a trend, but 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have fallen within the first 15 years of this century.Some progressive groups don't feel President Obama went nearly far enough. This is the statement from CREDO:
Climate change is no longer just about the future that we're predicting for our children or our grandchildren; it's about the reality that we're living with every day, right now.
The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. While we can't say any single weather event is entirely caused by climate change, we've seen stronger storms, deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons. Charleston and Miami now flood at high tide. Shrinking ice caps forced National Geographic to make the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart.
Over the past three decades, nationwide asthma rates have more than doubled, and climate change puts those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. As one of America’s governors has said, “We're the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”
And that's why I committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge, because I believe there is such a thing as being too late.
Most of the issues that I deal with-- and I deal with some tough issues that cross my desk-- by definition, I don't deal with issues if they’re easy to solve because somebody else has already solved them. And some of them are grim. Some of them are heartbreaking. Some of them are hard. Some of them are frustrating. But most of the time, the issues we deal with are ones that are temporally bound and we can anticipate things getting better if we just kind of plug away at it, even incrementally. But this is one of those rare issues-- because of its magnitude, because of its scope-- that if we don't get it right we may not be able to reverse, and we may not be able to adapt sufficiently.There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.
Now, that shouldn’t make us hopeless; it's not as if there’s nothing we can do about it. We can take action. Over the past several years, America has been working to use less dirty energy, more clean energy, waste less energy throughout our economy. We've set new fuel economy standards that mean our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade. Combined with lower gas prices, these standards are on pace to save drivers an average of $700 at the pump this year. We doubled down on our investment in renewable energy. We're generating three times as much wind power, 20 times as much solar power as we did in 2008.
These steps are making a difference. Over the past decade, even as our economy has continued to grow, the United States has cut our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. That's the good news. But I am here to say that if we want to protect our economy and our security and our children’s health, we're going to have to do more. The science tells us we have to do more.
This has been our focus these past six years. And it's particularly going to be our focus this month. In Nevada, later in August, I'll talk about the extraordinary progress we've made in generating clean energy-- and the jobs that come with it-- and how we can boost that even further. I'll also be the first American President to visit the Alaskan Arctic, where our fellow Americans have already seen their communities devastated by melting ice and rising oceans, the impact on marine life. We're going to talk about what the world needs to do together to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it's too late.
And today, we're here to announce America’s Clean Power Plan-- a plan two years in the making, and the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.
Right now, our power plants are the source of about a third of America’s carbon pollution. That's more pollution than our cars, our airplanes and our homes generate combined. That pollution contributes to climate change, which degrades the air our kids breathe. But there have never been federal limits on the amount of carbon that power plants can dump into the air. Think about that. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water-- and we're better off for it. But existing power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of harmful carbon pollution into the air.
For the sake of our kids and the health and safety of all Americans, that has to change. For the sake of the planet, that has to change.
So, two years ago, I directed Gina and the Environmental Protection Agency to take on this challenge. And today, after working with states and cities and power companies, the EPA is setting the first-ever nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from power plants.
Here’s how it works. Over the next few years, each state will have the change to put together its own plan for reducing emissions-- because every state has a different energy mix. Some generate more of their power from renewables; some from natural gas, or nuclear, or coal. And this plan reflects the fact that not everybody is starting in the same place. So we're giving states the time and the flexibility they need to cut pollution in a way that works for them.
And we'll reward the states that take action sooner instead of later-- because time is not on our side here. As states work to meet their targets, they can build on the progress that our communities and businesses are already making.
A lot of power companies have already begun modernizing their plants, reducing their emissions-- and by the way, creating new jobs in the process. Nearly a dozen states have already set up their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution. About half of our states have set energy efficiency targets. More than 35 have set renewable energy targets. Over 1,000 mayors have signed an agreement to cut carbon pollution in their cities. And last week, 13 of our biggest companies, including UPS and Walmart and GM, made bold, new commitments to cut their emissions and deploy more clean energy.
So the idea of setting standards and cutting carbon pollution is not new. It's not radical. What is new is that, starting today, Washington is starting to catch up with the vison of the rest of the country. And by setting these standards, we can actually speed up our transition to a cleaner, safer future.
With this Clean Power Plan, by 2030, carbon pollution from our power plants will be 32 percent lower than it was a decade ago. And the nerdier way to say that is that we’ll be keeping 870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere. The simpler, layman’s way of saying that is it’s like cutting every ounce of emission due to electricity from 108 million American homes. Or it's the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road.
By 2030, we will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent-- and thanks to this plan, there will be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks among our children each year. And by combining this with greater investment in our booming clean energy sector, and smarter investments in energy efficiency, and by working with the world to achieve a climate agreement by the end of this year, we can do more to slow, and maybe even eventually stop, the carbon pollution that’s doing so much harm to our climate.
Reductions in carbon pollution are much needed, but it’s hard to get too excited about this rule the same week that the president allows Shell to tempt fate in the Arctic. We have also now learned that this already too-weak rule is going to take another two years to kick in. President Obama has cleared the very low bar of the most climate pollution reductions of any president in history-- but in context of the progress that is needed, it’s hard to view this as especially ambitious. The need to stop burning dirty fossil fuels and transition to clean sources of energy couldn’t be greater. But in the context of President Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, which has increased the domestic production of fossil fuels, it is simply too weak and too late in starting. If this rule is President Obama’s signature achievement on climate change then his administration has missed a major opportunity to show real leadership on climate.Most Democrats in Congress, though, were very supportive of the President's initiative. One of the House's spokesmen on climate, Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), pointed out:
A team of dead-ender Republicans have made a career of playing dumb on climate change and can’t stop now. Everyone else understands how important this is. I agree with the people I represent that we shouldn’t sell our children’s future for a few more years of oil and coal profits, and I applaud the president for taking that public demand seriously. I especially thank him for facing down an obstructionist Republican majority that history will look back on with anger and disappointment.Grijalva and Keith Ellison (D-MN), the other co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, jointly issued this statement of support right after Obama's speech:
The Clean Power Plan is the most ambitious step ever taken by the United States to address global climate change. While we already limit harmful power plant emissions like arsenic, mercury and sulfur dioxide, we’ve turned a blind eye to carbon. This plan will begin to undo some of the harmful effects that have gone unchecked in recent years and reduce carbon 32 percent below what they were in 2005.Here's what Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, had to say yesterday:
At the same time, we’re setting a course for our nation to become energy independent while reducing our dangerous greenhouse emissions and creating clean energy jobs at home. By investing in energy efficiency and clean energy technology, we can reduce energy bills, boost our economy, and address climate change.
The Clean Power Plan will also protect our health. The Environmental Protection Agency projects it will stop 3,600 premature deaths and prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks in children. These health benefits will be especially important to communities of color, since they are more likely to live near environmental hazards like power plants and be exposed to air pollution from fossil fuels. We shouldn’t sell our children’s future for a few more years of oil and coal profits, and I applaud the president for leading on this vital issue.
The Clean Power Plan is the most ambitious step the United States has ever taken in the global effort to tackle the threat of climate change. It sets landmark clean air standards and gives states the opportunity to craft individual plans customized to their needs. Climate change is a matter not just of national significance, but global significance as well. With 2015 on track to be the hottest year on record for planet Earth, we owe it to our economy, our environment, and the health of future generations to tackle this growing danger.Ohio's progressive candidate for the Senate, P.G. Stittenfeld, who wrote an op-ed on climate change last week for HuffPo, was thrilled by President Obama's plan yesterday:
The Administration's Clean Power Plan outlines how all fifty states can work together to combat the danger posed by the effects of climate change. I urge state leaders nationwide to seize this opportunity to create innovative new jobs and protect public health. Maryland, as well as other states participating in carbon reduction programs like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), has already reduced household energy bills, bolstered state energy independence, and created new jobs in expanding industries. It's time for us to act as a nation. The Clean Power Plan is a tremendous step to boost American innovation and move us toward a clean energy future.
There is no greater threat to our nation’s future and the health of our families than the destructive force of climate change. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan will begin to tackle the problem by reducing the amount of carbon pollution we put in the atmosphere and helping our economy transition into a clean energy future.In his HuffPo article, Sittenfeld pointed out that his opponent, Rob Portman,
Not only is this a good plan for our nation-- it is a good plan for Ohio. The transition to clean energy will create thousands of jobs for Ohioans, reduce the amount of our utility bills and protect the air our children breathe.
introduced the amendment at the behest of lobbyists and special interests who are more concerned with their short-term bottom line than the health of citizens in Ohio. Over the course of his long career in Washington, Portman has taken over $850,000 in contributions from lobbyists and polluters intent on weakening environmental protection. Indeed, his current Congressional chief-of-staff is formerly one of those very lobbyists.Ohio, the country, and the planet can't afford more of Rob Portman. Nor can we afford Democrats who sit on the sidelines remaining silent about the pressing environmental issues of our day. The cautious approach to politics will not do. The moment demands more of us.Alan Grayson was even more direct after listening to Obama's talk:
President Obama is proposing that when we make a mess, we clean it up. What is so radical about that?Electing proven progressives and climate champions like Donna Edwards, Alan Grayson, Russ Feingold and P.G. Sittenfeld to the U.S. Senate will make it easier to meet those demands. You can help these four here on the Blue America Senate page.