Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Climate Change: President Obama's FDR Moment

Climate
Climate Change: President Obama's FDR Moment

Michael Brune Frances Beinecke

2012 was a historic year for climate disasters. Between a devastating drought, raging wildfires and the superstorm Hurricane Sandy, millions of Americans saw the very real toll that climate disruption is having on our country. But it’s not just extreme weather events—according to data from NOAA, 2012 is on track to be the hottest year ever for the contiguous U.S.

As we enter 2013, President Barack Obama faces a major challenge on how to address climate disruption. The nation—and the world—are looking to him for bold action and to see whether America will finally take the steps needed to address one of the biggest crises our planet has ever faced.

President Obama has not been shy about acknowledging the problem. During the campaign, the President said:

Climate change is not a hoax. More drought and floods and hurricanes and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And we can do something about it.”

On election night, Obama said

“We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

And just recently he told TIME Magazine that climate change is one of his top three priorities for his second term.

In his first term, President Obama took decisive action to cut global warming pollution from cars and trucks, setting the nation’s second largest carbon polluters on a clean-up path that will rebuild the auto industry, enhance our energy security, and save American consumers billions of dollars. 

Now, as President Obama starts his second term, it is critical to turn his full attention to the biggest carbon polluters of them all—the aging power plants that generate our electricity. Together, they churn out more than two billion tons of carbon pollution every single year.

The President has taken the first step by proposing strong carbon standards that will kick in when new power plants are built.  But unlike our cars, which get replaced every 10 or 15 years, old power plants go on and on. So we cannot clean up the country’s biggest carbon polluters unless we deal with the existing power plant fleet—especially the biggest coal-fired plants that keep polluting for 60 years or more. 

The carbon pollution from old coal-fired plants won’t take care of itself. We’ve already secured major victories to clean up the toxic chemicals and dangerous pollutants that poison our air and that are making thousands of Americans sick every year. In addition, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council have continued to work with  communities across the country, fighting at the local level for smart decisions by state energy and air pollution agencies to replace aging power plants with energy efficiency and renewable power sources like wind and solar.

This state and local action must be matched by strong action from our national government. That’s why it’s so important that President Obama use his full authority under the Clean Air Act, the law on the books that’s protected Americans’ health and well-being for more than four decades, to set strong carbon pollution standards for the nation’s entire power plant fleet.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can set national standards for the carbon pollution from existing power plants that slow climate change and save lives while creating jobs and growing our economy. It can be done in a way that achieves huge health and climate benefits at surprisingly low cost, that’s fair and flexible for each state and power company, that holds power bills down, and that triggers huge job-creating clean energy investments that can’t be outsourced. It’s an approach that even some power companies are praising.

The President just needs to say the word.

2012 was the year that climate disruption finally hit home for millions of Americans. The next four years will go quickly for President Obama, and with it, the chance to be a leader in the climate fight. Firm action to cut the carbon pollution from our aging fleet of power plants could be a major part of the legacy that the President leaves to future Americans.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A resident works in the vegetable garden of the Favela Nova Esperanca – a "green favela" which reuses everything and is subject to the ethics of permaculture – in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Feb. 14, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP via Getty Images

Farmers are the stewards of our planet's precious soil, one of the least understood and untapped defenses against climate change. Because of its massive potential to store carbon and foundational role in growing our food supply, soil makes farming a solution for both climate change and food security.

Read More Show Less
Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building. Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

By Shelly Miller

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Read More Show Less
California Senator Kamala Harris endorses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan on March 9, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a historic announcement Tuesday when he named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

A northern mockingbird on June 24, 2016. Renee Grayson / CC BY 2.0

Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).

Read More Show Less
A spiny dogfish shark swims in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. NOAA / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun

After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less