The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
President Obama: 'It's Time for America and the World to Act on Climate Change'
President Barack Obama declared Sunday that his administration is poised to unroll greater-than-expected cuts to greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants, in what he called "the biggest, most important steps we've ever taken to combat climate change."
However, as leaked details of the plan circulate ahead of Monday's slated unveiling, some climate campaigners say the measures, in fact, fall short of the president's pledge to take aggressive action to curb the global warming crisis.
In a White House video released Sunday, Obama acknowledged this crisis—emphasizing that scientific data shows that climate change is real and it already poses a threat to human and environmental health. "Climate change is not a problem for another generation," Obama said. "Not anymore. That's why on Monday my administration will release a final version of America's Clean Power Plan."
The plan is an update to a draft version released by the Environmental Protection Agency last summer. While the contents have not been officially released, they have been reported by numerous media outlets, including the Washington Post and New York Times, who cited unnamed sources in the Obama administration in articles published Saturday.
The cornerstone of the plan is a 32 percent cut in power plants' greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. This is a greater reduction than the 30 percent slash called for in last year's draft.
The new rule also boosts the requirements for renewable energy sources. "While the proposed rule would have allowed states to lower emissions by transitioning from plants fired by coal to plants fired by natural gas, which produces about half the carbon pollution of coal, the final rule is intended to push electric utilities to invest more quickly in renewable sources, raising to 28 percent from 22 percent the share of generating capacity that would come from such sources," note Times reporters Coral Davenport and Gardiner Harris.
However, the plan also includes apparent concessions to the industry—which has already vowed to levy lawsuits against the provisions.
Post reporter Joby Warrick wrote that "state governments also will be given more time to meet their targets and considerably more flexibility in how they achieve their pollution-cutting goals, according to two senior officials knowledgeable about the rule. For the first time, the officials said, the plan also includes a 'reliability safety valve' that can buy states additional time if needed to avoid disruptions in the power supply."
Moreover, the Times notes that "the final rules are explicitly meant to encourage the use of interstate cap-and-trade systems, in which states place a cap on carbon pollution and then create a market for buying permits or credits to pollute. The idea is that forcing companies to pay to pollute will drive them to cleaner sources of energy."
But Daphne Wysham, director the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, told Common Dreams that such cap-and-trade measures "allow polluters to profit and do not create an incentive for rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions."
"The good news is that Obama is recognizing that the climate crisis is urgent and this is going to be an important part of his legacy," continued Wysham, who participated in the recent direct actions and protests against Shell's Arctic drilling fleet in Portland, Oregon. "The bad news is that he is going nowhere near far enough."
"We need to be off of coal completely, as soon as possible," Wysham continued, echoing the warnings of scientists, who say that, to avert a climate catastrophe, the vast majority of fossil fuel deposits around the world must remain unused. "We need to be looking at 1990 greenhouse gas emissions baselines like the rest of the world uses. We need to be rapidly phasing out of coal and gas fired power. We need to stop drilling in the Arctic, which Obama allowed Shell to proceed with."
Karthik Ganapathy, U.S. communications manager for the climate action group 350.org, agrees. "This plan is a good first step but not enough for Obama to hang his climate legacy on," Ganapathy told Common Dreams. "It doesn't go far enough in terms of moving society off of fossil fuels."
"When it comes to the things Obama can do to combat climate change with his executive authority, there is a long list," Ganapathy continued. "He could drastically change the leasing process for fossil fuel on public land, reject the Keystone XL pipeline and stop drilling in the Arctic. This is all within his purview."
Bill Snape, senior counsel to the Center for Biological Diversity, told Common Dreams that whatever gains are represented in the president's proposal, the details of which are still trickling out, are ultimately a testament to people power: "We wouldn't be where we are without the people, the millions of people, who have sacrificed time and energy and resources and money hold meetings and stage protests. But this is just the beginning."
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
By Kristin Ohlson
From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.
Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.
It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."