“Certainly, nobody can deny that we’ve had several years of warmer temperatures. If that signals just a routine change that is manmade or not, I don’t think anybody can say definitely.”
In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. WIthout global policy to end the combustion of fossil fuels, concentrations are expected to double from current levels within decades.
Flake’s position on global warming and climate policy represents a retreat for the conservative politician and former mining lobbyist, who co-sponsored a bipartisan carbon-tax legislative proposal as a member of the House of Representatives in 2009. He disavowed the plan immediately upon election to the U.S. Senate in November 2012. In March 2013, Flake voted for an amendment introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) prohibiting further greenhouse gas regulations for the purposes of addressing climate change, and voted for Sen. Roy Blunt’s amendment to create a point of order against legislation that would create a federal tax or fee on carbon emissions.
A public hearing on the EPA’s draft rule for greenhouse pollution from existing power plants will be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the William S. Moorhead Federal Building, Room 1310, 1000 Liberty Avenue.
The hearing will convene at 9:00 a.m. and end at 8:00 p.m.
Please contact Ms. Pamela Garrett at 919-541-7966 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to register to speak at one of the hearings. The last day to pre-register in advance to speak at the hearings will be Friday, July 25, 2014.
A public hearing on the EPA’s draft rule for greenhouse pollution from existing power plants will be held in Denver, Colorado, in EPA’s Region 8 Building, 1595 Wynkoop Street.
The hearing will convene at 9:00 a.m. (local) and end at 8:00 p.m.
Please contact Ms. Pamela Garrett at 919-541-7966 or at email@example.com to register to speak at one of the hearings. The last day to pre-register in advance to speak at the hearings will be Friday, July 25, 2014.
A public hearing on the EPA’s draft rule for greenhouse pollution from existing power plants will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center Main Tower Bridge Conference Area, Conference Room B, 61 Forsyth Street, SW, Atlanta, GA 30303.
The hearing will convene at 9:00 a.m. and end at 8:00 p.m.
Please contact Ms. Pamela Garrett at 919-541-7966 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to register to speak at one of the hearings. The last day to pre-register in advance to speak at the hearings will be Friday, July 25, 2014.
The full text of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s speech introducing the draft rule for greenhouse pollution from existing power plants, June 2, 2014.
About a month ago, I took a trip to the Cleveland Clinic. I met a lot of great people, but one stood out—even if he needed to stand on a chair to do it. Parker Frey is 10 years old. He’s struggled with severe asthma all his life. His mom said despite his challenges, Parker’s a tough, active kid—and a stellar hockey player.
But sometimes, she says, the air is too dangerous for him to play outside. In the United States of America, no parent should ever have that worry.
That’s why EPA exists. Our job, directed by our laws, reaffirmed by our courts, is to protect public health and the environment. Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks not just to our health, but to our communities, our economy, and our way of life. That’s why EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
I want to thank Janet McCabe, our Acting Assistant Administrator at the Office of Air and Radiation, and the entire EPA team who worked so hard to deliver this proposal. They should be very proud of their work; I know I am.
Today, EPA is proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut carbon pollution from our power sector, by using cleaner energy sources, and cutting energy waste.
Although we limit pollutants like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic, currently, there are no limits on carbon pollution from power plants, our nation’s largest source. For the sake of our families’ health and our kids’ future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate. When we do, we’ll turn climate risk into business opportunity, we’ll spur innovation and investment, and we’ll build a world-leading clean energy economy.
The science is clear. The risks are clear. And the high costs of climate inaction keep piling up.
Rising temperatures bring more smog, more asthma, and longer allergy seasons. If your kid doesn’t use an inhaler, consider yourself a lucky parent, because 1 in 10 children in the U.S. suffers from asthma. Carbon pollution from power plants comes packaged with other dangerous pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, putting our families at even more risk.
Climate inaction is costing us more money, in more places, more often. 2012 was the second most expensive year in U.S. history for natural disasters. Even the largest sectors of our economy buckle under the pressures of a changing climate, and when they give way, so do businesses that support them, and local economics that depend on them.
As our seas rise, so do insurance premiums, property taxes, and food prices. If we do nothing, in our grandkids’ lifetimes, temperatures could rise 10 degrees and seas could rise 4 feet. The S&P recently said climate change will continue to affect credit risk worldwide.
This is not just about disappearing polar bears or melting ice caps. This is about protecting our health and our homes. This is about protecting local economies and jobs.
The time to act is now. That’s why President Obama laid out a Climate Action Plan—to cut carbon pollution, build a more resilient nation, and lead the world in our global climate fight.
Today’s proposed Clean Power Plan is a critical step forward. Before we put pen to paper, we asked for your advice. Our plan was built on that advice—from states, cities, businesses, utilities, and thousands of people. Today kicks off our second phase of crucial engagement.
Shaped by public input, present trends, proven technologies, and common sense, our Plan aims to cut energy waste and leverage cleaner energy sources by doing two things: First, setting achievable, enforceable state goals to cut carbon pollution per megawatt hour of electricity generated. And second, laying out a national framework that gives states the flexibility to chart their own, customized path to meet their goals.
All told, in 2030 when states meet their goals, our proposal will result in 30 percent less carbon pollution from the power sector across the U.S. when compared with 2005 levels. That’s like cancelling out annual carbon pollution from two thirds of all cars and trucks in America. And if you add up what we’ll avoid between now and 2030—it’s more than double the carbon pollution from every power plant in America in 2012.
As a bonus, in 2030 we’ll cut pollution that causes smog and soot 25 percent more than if we didn’t have this plan in place. The first year that these standards go into effect, we’ll avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks—and those numbers go up from there.
That means lower medical bills and fewer trips to the emergency room, especially for those most vulnerable like our children, our elderly, and our infirmed. This is about environmental justice, too, because lower income families, and communities of color are hardest hit.
Now let me get into the details of our proposal.
This plan is all about flexibility. That’s what makes it ambitious, but achievable. That’s how we can keep our energy affordable and reliable. The glue that holds this plan together, and the key to making it work, is that each state’s goal is tailored to its own circumstances, and states have the flexibility to reach their goal in whatever way works best for them.
To craft state goals, we looked at where states are today, and we followed where they’re going. Each state is different, so each goal, and each path, can be different.
The goals spring from smart and sensible opportunities that states and businesses are taking advantage of right now. From plant to plug.
Let me tell you about the kinds of opportunities I’m talking about:
We know that coal and natural gas play a significant role in a diverse national energy mix. This Plan does not change that—it recognizes the opportunity to modernize aging plants, increase efficiency, and lower pollution. That’s part of an all-of-the-above strategy that paves a more certain path for conventional fuels in a carbon constrained world.
States also have the opportunity to shift their reliance to more efficient, less polluting plants. Or, instead of low carbon sources, there’s always the opportunity to shift to “no” carbon sources like nuclear, wind, and solar. Since 2009, wind energy in America has tripled and solar has grown ten-fold. Our nuclear fleet continues to supply zero carbon baseload power. Homegrown clean energy is posting record revenues and creating jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.
Those are all opportunities at plants, but what about at the plug? Existing technologies can squeeze the most out of every electron, helping us use electricity more efficiently in our homes and businesses. More efficiency means we need less electricity to cool our refrigerators or charge our phones. For the fuel we burn, let’s get the most bang for our buck.
All of these options are not new ideas. They’re based on proven technologies, proven approaches, and are part of the ongoing story of energy progress in America. Our plan doesn’t prescribe—it propels that progress already underway.
And like I said, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. States can pick from a portfolio of options to meet regional, state, and community needs—from ones I mentioned, or the many more I didn’t, and in any combination. It’s up to states to mix and match to get to their goal.
If states don’t want to go it alone, they can hang out with other states, and join up with a multi-state market based program, or make new ones. More players mean more flexibility and lower costs. States have flexibility not just in means and method, but in timeline, too. Under our proposal, states have to design plans now, and start reducing so they’re on a trajectory to meet their final goals in 2030. That kind of flexibility means a smooth transition to cleaner power that doesn’t leave investments behind.
The flexibility of our Clean Power Plan affords states the choices that lead them to a healthier future: Choices that level the playing field, and keep options on the table, not off. Choices that reflect where we are today, and look to seize opportunities for tomorrow. Choices that are focused on building up, not shutting down, so we can raise the common denominator for a cleaner, low carbon economy that’ll fuel growth for decades to come.
What’s special about the flexibility of our plan is that it doesn’t just give states more options—it gives entrepreneurs and investors more options, too. It’ll deliver the certainty that will unleash market forces that drive even more innovation and investment, and spur even cleaner power and all sorts of new low-carbon technologies. Our plan pulls private investment off the shelves and into our clean energy revolution, and sends it in every direction, not just one or two. The opportunities are tremendous.
The good news is states, cities, and businesses have already blazed the trail. Our clean energy revolution is unfolding in front of us. Just in the past few weeks, I went to Salt Lake City, where the mayor and utilities are teaming up on efficiency. I went to St. Paul, where a science center is recycling energy waste, saving money and teaching kids what we adults are just learning. I’ve seen fortune 500 companies revamp strategies to lower business risk by meeting the demands of a carbon constrained future.
I want to give a shout out to all the local officials, rural co-ops, public power operators, and investor owned utilities leading on climate change: It’s clear that you act not just because it’s reasonable, but because it’s the right thing to do for the people you serve. Governors and mayors of all stripes are leaning into climate action. They see it not as a partisan obstacle, but as a powerful opportunity. And we know that success breeds success. Those of us who’ve worked in state and local government have seen healthy competition push states to share ideas and expertise. That’s when everybody wins.
EPA has had a longstanding partnership with states to protect public health. We set goals, and states are in the driver’s seat to meet them. So releasing the Clean Power Plan shifts the conversation to states. If you’re a teacher, scientist, mechanic, business person—or just someone with a good idea—share your thoughts with your state leaders. Help them see how they can build a plan that will better our future.
I know people are wondering: can we cut pollution while keeping our energy affordable and reliable? We can, and we will. Critics claim your energy bills will skyrocket. They’re wrong. Any small, short-term change in electricity prices would be within normal fluctuations the power sector already deals with. And any small price increase—think about the price of a gallon of milk a month—is dwarfed by huge benefits. This is an investment in better health and a better future for our kids.
In 2030, the Clean Power Plan will deliver climate and health benefits of up to $90 billion dollars. And for soot and smog reductions alone, that means for every dollar we invest in the plan, families will see $7 dollars in health benefits. And if states are smart about taking advantage of efficiency opportunities, and I know they are, when the effects of this plan are in place in 2030, average electricity bills will be 8 percent cheaper.
This plan is a down payment on a more efficient, 21st century power system that cuts energy waste, cuts pollution, and cuts costs. It’s a proven path—a lot of states have been doing it for years. Think about it like this: we set historic fuel efficiency standards that will double the distance our cars go on a gallon of gas. That means you fill up less often, and save more money. Efficiency is a win for our planet and our pocketbooks. That’s how it is in the auto industry, and that’s how it is in the power sector, too. And given the astronomical price we pay for climate inaction, the most costly thing we can do; is to do nothing.
The critics are wrong about reliability, too. For decades, power plants have met pollution limits without risking reliability. If anything, what threatens reliability and causes blackouts is devastating extreme weather fueled by climate change. I’m tired of people pointing to the Polar Vortex as a reason not to act on climate. It’s exactly the opposite. Climate change heightens risks from extreme cold that freezes power grids, superstorms that drown power plants, and heat waves that stress power supplies. And it turns out, efficiency upgrades that slow climate change actually help cities insulate against blackouts.
Despite all that, there are still special interest skeptics who will cry the sky is falling. Who will deliberately ignore the risks, deliberately overestimate the costs, and deliberately undervalue the benefits. But the facts are clear. For over four decades, EPA has cut air pollution by 70 percent and the economy has more than tripled. All while providing the power we need to keep America strong. Climate action doesn’t dull America’s competitive edge—it sharpens it. It spurs ingenuity, innovation, and investment. In 2011, we exported almost 33 percent more cars than we did in 2009—a clear sign of a competitive industry. And our fuel efficiency standards strengthen that.
Companies like Best Buy are investing in low-carbon operations. Bank of America pays its employees to cut carbon pollution, because investors see climate risk as business opportunity. Any business will tell you eliminating waste means more money for other things, like hiring employees. Corporate climate action is not bells and whistles—it’s all hands on deck.
And even without national standards, the energy sector sees the writing on the wall. Businesses like Spectra Energy are investing billions in clean energy. And utilities like Exelon and Entergy are weaving climate considerations into business plans. All this means more jobs, not less. We’ll need thousands of American workers, in construction, transmission, and more, to make cleaner power a reality.
The bottom line is: we have never—nor will we ever—have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment.
There’s a reason empty allegations from critics sound like a broken record. It’s the same tired play from the same special-interest playbook they’ve used for decades. In the 60’s, when smog choked our cities, critics cried wolf and said EPA action would put the brakes on auto production. They were wrong. Instead, our air got cleaner, our kids got healthier—and we sold more cars. In the 90’s, critics cried wolf and said fighting acid rain would make electricity bills go up and our lights go out. They said industry would, quote, die a “quiet death.” Wrong again. Industry is alive and well, our lights are still on, and we’ve dramatically reduced acid rain. Time after time, when science pointed to health risks, special interests cried wolf to protect their own agenda. And time after time, we followed the science, protected the American people, and the doomsday predictions never came true.
Now, climate change is calling our number. And right on cue, those same critics once will flaunt manufactured facts and scare-tactics, standing in our way of our right to breathe clean air, to keep our communities safe, and to meet our moral duty as stewards of our natural resources. Their claims that the science-driven action that’s protected families for generations would somehow harm us flies in the face of history, and shows a lack of faith in American ingenuity and entrepreneurship.
I don’t accept that premise. The President of the United States doesn’t accept that premise. We can lead this fight. We can innovate our way to a better future. It’s what America does best. Yes, our climate crisis is a global problem that demands a global solution, and there’s no Hail Mary play we can call to reverse its effects. But we can act today to advance the ball and limit the dangers of punting the problem to our kids.
It’s no accident that our proposal is a key piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan—and key to American leadership in our global climate fight. Although there’s still much work to do to get carbon pollution down to safe levels, I’m hopeful when I see the progress we’ve made. I’m hopeful because I see the pattern of perseverance that defines America.
From the light bulb to the locomotive; from photovoltaic cells to cellphones, America has always turned small steps into giant leaps. We’ve cured diseases, we’ve explored the stars, we’ve connected corners of the globe with the click of a mouse, because when critics say it can’t be done, we say—watch us. That’s what America is made of. We don’t settle. We lead. And that’s how we’ll confront our climate crisis.
When it comes to our Plan, we may not agree on details of how we do it, but we agree on why we do it. When our kids ask us if we did everything we could to leave them a safer, cleaner world, we want to say, yes, we did. When we think of our children—kids like Parker from Cleveland, Ohio—it’s easy to see why we’re compelled to act.
As governors and mayors, as CEOs and school teachers, as faith leaders, nurses, factory workers, and most of all, as parents, we have a moral obligation to ensure the world we leave behind is as safe, healthy, and vibrant as the one we inherited. Our Clean Power Plan is a huge step toward delivering on that promise.
Thank you very much.
The long-awaited Environmental Protection Agency rule for greenhouse pollution from existing power plants will seek a 30 percent reduction from the 2005 peak, the Wall Street Journal’s Amy Harder reports. Half of that reduction has already been achieved in the seven years between 2005 and 2012, where only carbon dioxide emissions are concerned. The draft rule is expected to be unveiled Monday, with a year delay before finalization in 2015. States will be expected to submit compliance plans in June 2016, the final year of the Obama administration.
Because coal-fired power plants emit three-quarters of the greenhouse pollution from electricity generation in the United States, the rule is expected to impact the aging coal-fired fleet of plants, which also cause the lion’s share of traditional air pollution from the country’s power plants.Coral Davenport of the New York Times summarizes the draft rule:
Under the proposal to be unveiled on Monday, states will be given a wide menu of policy options to achieve the pollution cuts. Rather than immediately shutting down coal plants, states will be allowed to reduce emissions by making changes across their electricity systems – by installing new wind and solar generation, energy-efficiency technology and by starting or joining state and regional “cap-and-trade” programs, in which states agree to cap carbon pollution and buy and sell permits to pollute.
The proposed rule calls for most of the reduction to happen by 2020, with a 25 percent cut from 2005 levels (11 percent cut from 2012) by then.
Carbon-dioxide pollution from electricity generation is already down 15 percent from 2005. This reduction has come primarily from a switch to natural gas and renewables. Any reduction in overall greenhouse pollution from a switch from coal to natural gas requires low levels of methane leakage, a requirement that has not been clearly shown.
Interestingly, the reduction in greenhouse pollution from the proposed rule is about one-third greater than the footprint of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Electricity generation is responsible for one-third of U.S. domestic greenhouse pollution. The announced target represents a reduction of 340 million metric tons of CO2 from 2012 levels, five percent of the United States’ total greenhouse pollution that year. That cut is about double the annual 120-200 MMT/yr climate footprint of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The total pollution saved over 2016-2030 due to the rule would be thirty percent greater than the footprint of the tar-sands crude carried by the pipeline.
The international benchmark for greenhouse pollution is 1990 levels. Measured against 1990’s pollution levels, the proposed rule represents a one percent reduction in power plant emissions by 2020, and a 7 percent cut by 2030 (a two percent cut from total U.S. 1990 greenhouse pollution).
The process for establishing the rule was begun by the Obama administration in March 2011, years after the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision by the Supreme Court overturning the EPA’s 2003 rejection of greenhouse regulation.
Update: The EPA has released what it’s calling the Clean Power Plan. The EPA estimates the rule will “cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit” and “shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.”
The leading contender for the Republican nomination to compete for Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) seat doubts the science of climate change and rejects any response that calls for more than voluntary actions. In a May 9, 2014 interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board, Iowa state senator Joni Ernst, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, expressed her disbelief in the science of anthropogenic climate change.
Yes, we do see climates change but I have not seen proven proof that it is entirely man-made. I think we do have cyclic changes in weather, and I think that’s been throughout the course of history. What impact is man-made. . . but I do think we can educate people to make good choices.
In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution.
When asked how she believes the nation should respond to “our current climate situation,” her first recommendation was “encouraging people to, obviously, recycle.” She repeatedly and adamantly opposed “cap and trade” as a “tax on energy” and a “mandate.” She then argued the renewable fuel standard, which mandates the use of ethanol in gasoline, was not a mandate.
During the interview, Ernst expressed the similarly contrarian and evidence-less belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the United States invaded in 2003.
Ernst has been endorsed for the June 3 Republican primary by the Register, Sarah Palin, the National Rifle Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. If she wins, she will face Rep. Bruce Braley in the general election.
Sen. Marco Rubio: "I Do Not Believe That Human Activity Is Causing These Dramatic Changes to Our Climate"
During an interview in which he expressed his readiness to be President of the United States, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) rejected the science of climate change. Rubio told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl on Sunday’s “This Week” that he does not accept the findings of the National Climate Assessment which warned of the damages already occurring in Florida because of human-caused global warming. He went on to claim that “these scientists” are proposing laws to “destroy our economy.”
I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. That’s what I do not—and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.
KARL: Do you think you’re ready to be president?
RUBIO: I do.
. . .
KARL: But you think you’re ready?
You think you’re qualified?
You think you have the experience to be president, if you make that decision?
RUBIO: I do, but I think we have other people, as well. I think in essence, I think our party is blessed to have a number of people in that position.
And the question is what—who’s vision is the one that our party wants to follow?
. . .
KARL: Miami, Tampa, are two of the cities that are most threatened by climate change. So putting aside your disagreement with what to do about it, do you agree with the science on this? I mean, how big a threat is climate change?
RUBIO: Yes, I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate.
Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activity, I do not agree with that.
KARL: You don’t buy it. You don’t buy it.
RUBIO: I don’t know of any era in world history where the climate has been stable. Climate is always evolving, and natural disasters have always existed.
KARL: But let me get this straight, you do not think that human activity, its production of CO2, has caused warming to our planet.
RUBIO: I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. That’s what I do not—and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.
KARL: It’s talk like that that Rubio hopes will appeal to the conservatives he would need to win the Republican nomination.
This post collects statements from environmental and progressive organizations in response to the Third National Climate Assessment of the U.S. Global Change Research Program.Joint statement from Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Center for American Progress, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club:
The National Climate Assessment provides more stark evidence that climate change is happening now and threatening our health, homes, businesses and communities. It must be addressed immediately. The NCA comes only weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reaffirmed the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is underway and that carbon pollution from human activity is responsible for it. The message from the NCA is blunt. Without action, the damage from climate change on our communities will worsen, including: more asthma attacks and respiratory disease; threats to our food and water supplies as well as our outdoor heritage; and, more violent and deadly storms that shutter businesses and cost billions of dollars in recovery. Next month, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to unveil an ambitious proposal to set the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants — the largest U.S. contributor to climate change. We applaud the administration for its commitment to protecting our communities and our economy through the National Climate Action Plan, and call on other public officials to support the plan and these life-saving safeguards.
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune:
Today’s landmark report is a wake-up call that we simply cannot afford to sleep through yet again. American families are already paying the costs of the extreme weather and health risks fueled by the climate crisis. Now, the nation’s most comprehensive study of climate threats shows the toll on our health, our communities, and our economy will only skyrocket across the country if we do not act. We applaud the Obama Administration for listening to these alarm bells, and urge them to continue to take critical, common-sense steps, including the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. We don’t just have an obligation to future generations to take action now—we will seize an enormous opportunity as we do. By leaving dirty fossil fuels in the ground and continuing the transition to clean energy solutions like wind and solar, we can create good American jobs and power homes and businesses nationwide without polluting our air, water, or climate.
National Wildlife Federation senior global warming specialist Patty Glick, co-author of the Pacific Northwest chapter:
What strikes me most about this report is how many changes we’re already experiencing and how quickly they’ve occurred. The first National Climate Assessment back in 2000 was considered a look into the future, but just 14 years later, we’re no longer just talking about forecasts and models. Today we’re reporting on the changes we’re already seeing in our own backyards, and frankly I’m alarmed at the speed. Compared to previous projections, we’re seeing temperatures rising faster, oceans more quickly becoming acidic, fish and wildlife habitat shifting sooner than many species can adapt. That we’re seeing so many changes so rapidly is a call to act now to prevent these changes from overwhelming us in the future. We must confront the underlying cause of climate change by cutting carbon pollution, investing in clean energy and saying no to dirty energy. And we will also need to step-up efforts to prepare for and adapt to the impacts climate change already is having on our communities and wildlife by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.
Green For All Executive Director Nikki Silvestri:
The National Climate Assessment finds what we know to be true. Climate change is real and affects neighborhoods all across the United States – especially those hit first and worst, communities of color and low-income Americans. We are already paying more for heat and air conditioning to stay comfortable during record high or low temperatures. Severe droughts and floods in America’s agricultural areas strain food production. People are losing loved ones and homes due to extreme weather. We can’t disregard the environment any longer. We need to expand jobs in clean energy and make sure disadvantaged communities have a shot at them. We need to encourage people to come together to plant gardens and promote sustainable lifestyles. We also need to prepare ourselves to leap forward into a healthier future after a hurricane, blizzard, or flood — not just bounce back to where we were before. The good news is that our leaders are already acting on climate change. We are excited by the potential impacts of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and support the Administration’s efforts to cut emissions from future and existing power plants. We are eager to see the National Climate Assessment move this work forward, so we can build cleaner, stronger communities.
Environment America Executive Director Margie Alt:
We’ve known for decades that global warming threatens our future. This report shows how our families and communities are being harmed today. Today’s report explains the science behind what farmers, first responders, flood insurers, victims of hurricane Sandy and other major storms have seen firsthand: global warming is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, contributing to sea level rise, and increasing drought, and no region of the country is off the hook. In less than a month, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time. Despite power plants being the largest source of carbon pollution in the county, they have gone for decades without the kinds of limits they have for soot, smog, and other dangerous air pollution. This isn’t the only action we need to solve the climate crisis. But limiting carbon pollution from power plants is a major step that will move us dramatically closer to staving off the worst impacts of climate change.
Fossil-industry backed Center for Climate and Energy Solutions President Eileen Claussen:
The Third National Climate Assessment makes clearer than ever that climate change is taking a toll here and now, and that it poses growing risks to communities across the country. Based on an exhaustive review of the latest scientific evidence, the report brings it home to Americans that we are not immune to threats posed by climate change to our infrastructure, water supplies, agriculture, ecosystems, and health. The impacts vary from region to region – more competition for water in the arid West, more heavy downpours in the Northeast and Midwest, and rising sea levels fueling powerful storm surges along the Gulf Coast. What is clear is that every region faces impacts that could be costly and severe. Motivated in part by the billions in damages caused by recent extreme weather events, many companies are starting to take action to build their climate resilience, as documented in our “Weathering the Storm” report. Companies, communities, and individuals all need to better manage climate risks, both by reducing carbon emissions and by becoming more climate-resilient. Investments in mitigation will give our adaptation efforts a greater chance of success. We agree with the NCA: More must be done across the public and private sectors to reduce
- and to safeguard ourselves against -the rising risks of a warming planet.
Center for American Progress Distinguished Senior Fellow Carol M. Browner (Browner is also on the leadership council of the nuclear-industry group Nuclear Matters):
Once again the scientific community is sounding the alarm, this time with the National Climate Assessment, and reaffirming that carbon pollution is driving climate change, fueling more violent and frequent weather events, and threatening public health. The NCA underscores the urgency to address climate change and the biggest step the Obama administration can take is to set the strongest possible limits next month when they unveil the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Tackling climate change will require a comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution, improve energy efficiency, and innovate our way to cleaner and safer sources of energy. The EPA and the states must work together to develop solutions that cut carbon pollution and move us toward a cleaner energy future.
American Lung Association Assistant Vice President and Director, Healthy Air Campaign Lyndsay Moseley Alexander:
Today’s Assessment released by the Administration affirms what we’ve long known about the urgent need to address the health effects of climate change. Too often, the health impacts of climate are left out of the conversation. In the new National Climate Assessment, the message is clear: climate change threatens our ability to protect our communities, especially those most vulnerable, against the dangers of air pollution, increased allergens, extreme weather, and wildfire. We must meet the climate challenge now if we want to protect the health of millions of Americans living with asthma and other lung diseases, as well as children, seniors, low income and minority communities. This Assessment comes on the heels of the American Lung Association’s most recent 2014 State of the Air report that found that nearly half of the people in the United States (147.6 million) live in counties with unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution, nearly 16 million more than in the last report. The “State of the Air” report confirms that warmer temperatures increased ozone pollution in large areas across the United States. For example, of the 25 metro areas most polluted by ozone, 22 had worse ozone problems including Los Angeles, Houston, Washington-Baltimore, Las Vegas, Phoenix, New York City, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Philadelphia in large part due to heat waves in 2010 and 2012. Drought and wildfires threaten communities with clouds of dust and smoke that can shorten life. Extreme weather events leave families living in damp homes, inhaling moldy debris and soot as they recover. Longer pollen seasons release allergens that can worsen asthma and other lung diseases. As we see on-going record-setting drought in the West and recent record-breaking rain in the East, we know that these changes already exist. They can get worse. As a nation, we have a very important choice to make. Placing first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants is a vital step to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We cannot allow politics and pressure from polluters to slow clean-up of carbon pollution. Unless we adopt strong carbon standards, the National Climate Assessment shows that reducing air pollution and protecting our families and our neighbors will become even more challenging.
Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke:
Our leading scientists send a stark message: Climate change is already seriously disrupting our lives, hurting our health and damaging our economy,” Beinecke said. “If we don’t slam the brakes on the carbon pollution driving climate change, we’re dooming ourselves and our children to more intense heat waves, destructive floods and storms, and surging sea levels. Fortunately, the Obama Administration is taking action – by setting standards for cleaner more efficient cars and, within weeks, by issuing the first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from our existing power plants. Cleaning up the air is a win-win: It can create thousands of jobs, expand energy efficiency and lower electric bills while improving public health. That’s the climate legacy we can, and must, leave future generations.
Natural Resources Defense Council health and environment program senior scientist Kim Knowlton, co-author of the Human Health Chapter:
This report shows how climate change’s effects are now firmly in the present, posing threats to our health—and that of our children, and their children. Rising temperatures increase the frequency and intensity of dangerous heat waves, worsen illnesses like asthma, contribute to the spread of insects that carry infectious diseases, and fuel more dangerous storms and flooding. We have important opportunities now to limit climate change’s worst effects by cutting carbon emissions. At same time, we can prepare to deal with what’s happening now, and for what’s coming, to protect communities and people.
Union of Concerned Scientists Climate and Energy Program director of government affairs Robert Cowin:
The stakes keep getting higher as emissions increase and as scientists learn more about the risks of climate change. The report clearly outlines the need to make climate resilience a national priority. We’re already feeling the impact of climate change and the costs are formidable. Ideally, we’d have a price on carbon to reduce emissions and help pay for climate resilience measures. In the meantime, Congress can do more to make infrastructure and industry less vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather.
World Resources Institute U.S. Climate Initiative director Kevin Kennedy:
The National Climate Assessment brings to light new and stronger evidence of how climate change is already having widespread impacts across the United States. The report confirms what numerous scientific authorities have been saying: climate change is fundamentally altering our nation’s environment and poses a significant threat to our health and our economy. Thankfully, there are solutions available if leaders act quickly to tackle climate change head on. Further delay will only accelerate climate change and raise the costs of addressing its impacts. Next month, the Obama administration is expected to take a critical step forward by introducing the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Power plants produce one-third of U.S. emissions and represent the greatest opportunity for the U.S. to drive down its emissions. This will be a major – though not the only – step along the way to put America on course for a safer, low-carbon future.
World Wildlife Fund vice president for climate change Lou Leonard:
Often we consider climate change tomorrow’s problem, but this report reads like it was ripped from today’s headlines. The assessment paints the clearest picture yet that extreme weather and climate disruption are already here, impacting communities across America, and it’s not pretty. If we want to avoid the dangerous future predicted in this report, we need to start today by doing two things: use the information in the report to prepare our communities for these risks; and change the way our country chooses and uses energy. The Administration’s work to set new standards for old, dirty power plants is a key step toward a renewable energy future and puts our nation on the road to meeting President Obama’s mid-century goal of reducing emissions by 80%. This isn’t a typical climate report. Over the past several years, experts from around the country have contributed to and led its creation: local university professors, experts from state and local agriculture and water resources agencies, and leaders from the private sector. The report was created by America’s best and we need to use it to protect America’s communities and natural wonders. In addition to addressing current and future impacts to our climate and oceans, this is the first national assessment that details response strategies, including the need to avoid the most extreme impacts by rapidly driving down emissions of greenhouse gases. The next steps couldn’t be clearer. We need to use this practical report as a guidebook for preparing local communities for extreme weather and other climate impacts. At the same time, we need to transform the way we produce and use energy, leaving dirty coal, oil and gas behind. There is no time to lose. The longer we wait, the more costs and suffering we will endure.
The pipeline is intended to ship upwards of 830,000 barrels of tar-sands crude a day for a 40-year lifespan. The pipeline will add 120-200 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent to the atmosphere annually, with a lifetime footprint of 6 to 8 billion tons CO2e. That’s as much greenhouse pollution as 40 to 50 average U.S. coal-fired power plants. Furthermore the Keystone XL pipeline is recognized by the tar-sands industry as a key spigot for the future development of the Alberta tar sands, which would emit 840 billion tons CO2e if fully exploited.
Interviewing Washington insiders who have offered various forms of support for the Keystone XL project, Davenport claims instead that “Keystone’s political symbolism vastly outweighs its policy substance.” To support the claim, Davenport then erroneously underestimates the global warming footprint of the pipeline by a factor of ten. Davenport’s crucial error is to contrast the actual carbon footprint of existing fossil-fuel projects — such as US electric power plants (2.8 billion tons) and tailpipe emissions (1.9 billion) — to the impact of the pipeline’s oil being dirtier than traditional petroleum, without explaining that she was switching measurements:
Consider the numbers: In 2011, the most recent year for which comprehensive international data is available, the global economy emitted 32.6 billion metric tons of carbon [dioxide] pollution. The United States was responsible for 5.5 billion tons of that (coming in second to China, which emitted 8.7 billion tons). Within the United States, electric power plants produced 2.8 billion tons of those greenhouse gases, while vehicle tailpipe emissions from burning gasoline produced 1.9 billion tons.
By comparison, the oil that would move through the Keystone pipeline would add 18.7 million metric tons of carbon [dioxide] to the atmosphere annually, the E.P.A. estimated.
[There are two side errors in the passage: Davenport uses “tons of carbon” where she means “tons of carbon dioxide equivalent”. One ton of carbon is the equivalent of 3.67 tons of carbon dioxide. All of her numbers refer to tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent. Secondly, the estimate was not made by the E.P.A. but by a State Department contractor hired by TransCanada; the E.P.A. cited that analysis but did not make the calculations.]
What the oil-industry contractor for the State Department actually calculated is that the oil that would move through the Keystone pipeline would add 147-168 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually, 1.3 to 27.4 million of which (central estimate 18.7 million from the draft assessment) are because tar-sands crude is dirtier than other petroleum sources. Those 18.7 million tons are the “incremental” or “additional” footprint of the pipeline, not the full 160 million-ton footprint.
Based on this order-of-magnitude measurement-switching error, Davenport incorrectly concludes that “the carbon emissions produced by oil that would be moved in the Keystone pipeline would amount to less than 1 percent of United States greenhouse gas emissions, and an infinitesimal slice of the global total.”
In fact, the carbon dioxide emissions produced by oil that would be moved in this single pipeline would amount to 3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and half a percent of the global carbon footprint. Only thirty-two countries have larger annual footprints than this single tar-sands project.
Climate scientist John Abraham made this point in The Guardian last week. “People who think Keystone is a minor issue don’t understand science and they sure don’t understand economics,” he wrote.
Putting aside any possible political and economic motivations to support the intentions of the global petroleum industry, the intellectual failure rests on an obvious error made subtle through convolution.
Whether one is looking at actual or incremental footprints of carbon-infrastructure projects, the results should be equivalent from a policy standpoint, although the numbers would be different. Why, then, does the incremental analysis used by the EPA and the State Department’s oil-industry contractors appear to give the absurd result that the Keystone XL impact is “infinitesimal”?
The methodology of incremental footprint analysis assumes a baseline of future projected carbon pollution, and then looks whether a given project would increase or decrease the baseline. The validity of incremental-footprint analysis thus depends on the baseline.
In line with scientific warnings, President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department have committed to limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In the International Energy Agency’s 2°C scenario, global oil consumption would fall by 50 percent from current levels by 2050, within the intended operating lifetime of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Keystone XL final environmental impact statement instead assumes that global oil demand will increase over that time period. The baseline used is the Energy Information Administration’s 2013 Annual Energy Outlook, which projects that global oil consumption will increase by 30 to 40 percent by 2040. In that scenario, the world would be on a pathway for rapid and catastrophic global warming of 4 to 6°C (or greater) by 2100.
No matter the analysis, the Keystone XL pipeline is incompatible with climate security. The global-warming impact of constructing Keystone XL is only “infinitesimal” if you assume catastrophic global warming is inevitable and that the signed climate pledges of the United States government are worthless.
Perhaps Ms. Davenport should ask Levi, Book, Bordoff, Morris, and Goldwyn if that is their assumption.
Update May 2: The Times has posted a correction:
Correction: May 2, 2014
An article and an accompanying chart on April 22 comparing the projected Keystone XL pipeline with other sources of carbon emissions referred imprecisely to projected emissions from tar-sands oil moving through the pipeline. Producing and burning that oil would emit 18.7 million more metric tons annually than would conventional oil, or far less than 1 percent of United States emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The tar-sands oil would not emit 18.7 million tons total, but about 150 million tons, or less than 3 percent of United States emissions.
The correction itself is in error; the estimate of 18.7 million metric tons is not from the E.P.A., but is from the draft assessment prepared by TransCanada contractor Environmental Resources Management for the State Department.