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Expert to expert commentary on the science, law and economics of climate change.
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- Tomás Carbonell
- Nat Keohane
Vice President for International Climate
- Ilissa Ocko
High Meadows Fellow, Office of Chief Scientist
- Peter Zalzal
- Gernot Wagner
- Graham McCahan
- Mandy Warner
Climate & Air Policy Specialist
- Pamela Campos
High Meadows Scientist
- Tomás Carbonell
Author Archives: Fred Krupp
Seven months ago, I made a strong statement that may have left some people shaking their heads. I said that we can turn the corner on climate change – end the centuries-long rise in greenhouse gas emissions and see them peak and begin to decline – in just five short years.
As it turns out, 2015 is shaping up to be a year of giant steps toward that goal.
In a deeply reported New York Magazine piece, political writer Jonathan Chait calls it “the year humans finally got serious about saving themselves.” Says Chait, “The world is suddenly responding to the climate emergency with – by the standards of its previous behavior – astonishing speed.”
I agree. Here are four reasons I believe we’re headed in the right direction:
1. America is tackling greenhouse gas pollution
The United States remains among the world’s largest per-capita emitters of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants. But thanks to this year’s action by the Environmental Protection Agency, America now has a Clean Power Plan that will cut emissions from power plants, our single largest source of carbon, by 32 percent over the next 15 years.
The era of unlimited climate pollution is over.
On the heels of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan came a proposed rule to cut methane from newly built facilities in the oil and gas industry. More needs to be done, but this is an important step in dealing with a potent greenhouse gas that accounts for 25 percent of Earth’s current warming.
These climate laws will help the U.S. meet our target to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, a commitment we made to the international community that is key to getting other large polluters to do their share.
We’ll need further reductions, but this is a very significant start.
2. China is building momentum for global action
The world’s No. 1 greenhouse gas emitter, China submitted its climate plan to the United Nations in June, confirming it will let emissions peak by 2030 – and possibly sooner. I know from my colleague Dan Dudek in China that “sooner” is possible because this is a country that’s serious about climate action.
Pollution is choking Chinese cities and threatening economic growth, but the country’s leaders also see opportunity in the emerging clean energy industry. China has pledged to have 20 percent of its energy come from wind, solar and other non-fossil energy sources within 15 years – a massive investment in a nation of 1.4 billion.
This year alone, China is expected to add 18 gigawatts of new solar capacity. By comparison, the U.S. recently surpassed 20 gigawatts total.
To have China and the U.S. making such significant commitments has transformed the dynamic going into the U.N. climate summit in Paris. Instead of making excuses for inaction, the leading emitters have launched a virtuous cycle of increasing ambition.
That changes everything.
3. Clean energy is lifting people out of poverty
One billion people worldwide still have no energy, and more than 1 billion live in extreme poverty. Turning the corner on climate cannot mean that economies can’t develop.
But just as some developing economies adopted cellular technology without ever having land lines, some will leap-frog the dirty energy phase of economic development and go straight to clean.
In fiscal 2014, the World Bank more than doubled lending for renewable energy projects to nearly $3.6 billion – or 38 percent of its total energy lending.
As Rachel Kyte, the bank’s vice president and special envoy for climate change, recently said, what poverty-stricken people of the world need now is a “a low-carbon revolution.”
And this is starting to happen. In 2014, the emerging economies of China, India, Brazil and South Africa invested $131 billion in clean energy, just 6 percent less than the developed world did.
4. Pope Francis is galvanizing world opinion
When Pope Francis released his much-anticipated encyclical on environmental stewardship in June, he made an urgent moral appeal to the world.
As my colleague Paul Stinson noted at the time, “A leading voice without political boundaries, the pope has the ability to reach people who previously could not or would not face the reality of climate change.”
Pope Francis called on us to push harder to replace fossil fuel with renewable energy sources – and people are listening.
The day he speaks to Congress later this month, a climate rally is expected to draw many thousands to the nation’s capital in a unified call for action. Environmental Defense Fund will be there, too.
The momentum is growing. We’re on our way to turn the corner on climate change – and the race of our lives is on.
This post originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.
(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)
It will put power in consumers’ hands
It ramps up the clean energy market
It builds a more prosperous future
(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)
The Environmental Protection Agency announced the nation’s first-ever carbon pollution standards for new power plants this morning—a major victory in the fight against climate change. Right now, there are no limits at all on carbon pollution from power plants, the single largest source of this pollution in the United States.
These standards are a necessary, common sense step that will ensure cleaner power generation that helps protect our children from dangerous smog and our communities from extreme weather. They will also drive innovation, so that America can continue to lead the world in the race to develop cleaner, safer power technologies.
- American Academy of Pediatrics journal publication:
Anticipated direct health consequences of climate change include injury and death from extreme weather events and natural disasters, increase in climate-sensitive infectious disease, increases in air pollution-related illness, and more heat related, potentially fatal, illness. Within all of these categories, children have increased vulnerability compared with other groups.
- American Lung Association website:
Scientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient ozone levels. Higher temperatures can enhance the conditions for ozone formation. Even with the steps that are in place to reduce ozone, evidence warns that changes in climate are likely to increase ozone levels in the future in large parts of the United States.
- American Medical Association news/opinion piece:
If physicians want evidence of climate change, they may well find it in their own offices. Patients are presenting with illnesses that once happened only in warmer areas. Chronic conditions are becoming aggravated by more frequent and extended heat waves. Allergy and asthma seasons are getting longer. . . . Rising air and water temperatures and rising ocean levels since the late 1960s have increased the severity of weather, including hurricanes and droughts, and the production of ground-level ozone. That means more asthma and respiratory illnesses, more heat stroke and exhaustion, and exacerbation of chronic conditions such as heart disease.
Cost-effective, low-carbon energy solutions are already helping spur the economy, create good jobs and reduce harmful pollution in red and blue states across the country. Industries are recognizing that these smart power solutions are not only good for people and the environment, but also very good for business.
Many major power companies have recognized the need to address carbon. When these standards were initially proposed, the CEO of PSEG, Ralph Izzo, said, “[t]he Agency’s action establishes a logical and modest standard for new electric power plants and provides the industry with much needed regulatory certainty. The EPA provides a framework for the industry to confront this problem in a cost effective manner.” And the CEO of American Electric Power, Nick Akins, said in June that the new Climate Action Plan can be carried out “without a major impact to customers or the economy.”
Wind topped all new power deployed in 2012, with especially strong growth in Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota and Oklahoma. So-called “microgrids”—local generation networks that can run independent of the grid—are unlocking on-site clean power that expands clean energy choices for communities and consumers. And new financing models are driving more efficient use of energy at scale, cutting pollution while saving businesses and families money.
We know we must act now.
The costs of climate inaction are hitting home across the country as extreme weather events batter our communities. From the recent heartbreaking severe floods in Colorado to last year’s devastation from Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast, from crippling drought to terrible wildfires in the West, extreme weather is here and made worse by rising temperatures. The two million Americans who supported the EPA’s initial proposal last year know that doing nothing about climate change is not free. We are paying costs now and will inflict even greater costs on our children and future generations if we do not begin taking aggressive action to reduce carbon emissions.
As Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said earlier this week, “every ton we emit you can check it off against our children and grandchildren.” The naysayers, as always, are out in force and will do everything they can to derail action on climate. Please join Americans across our nation and lend your voice of support during this crucial time. Together with health and environmental groups, businesses, parents and states – red and blue – we can work together to meet this challenge.
(This post first appeared on Tuesday, June 25th on EDF Voices)
Today President Obama took an important step toward meeting the promise of his inaugural address to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
In a Climate Action Plan announced at Georgetown University, the President laid out his vision for putting in place common sense policies that will cut carbon pollution while driving innovation, cutting energy waste and energy bills, creating jobs, and protecting public health. The President’s Plan pledged to:
- Cut carbon pollution in the United States by putting in place tough carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, accelerating investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and innovative technologies, reducing emissions of highly potent greenhouse gases such as methane and HFCs, and putting in place fuel-saving standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks;
- Work with local communities and vulnerable sectors of the economy to prepare for climate impacts that can no longer be avoided; and
- Couple action at home with leadership internationally to forge a truly global solution to this global challenge. (Read more about the international aspects of the plan on ourClimate Talks blog.)
The President’s decision to focus his administration on addressing the serious problem of methane’s contribution to climate change is an additional, welcome part of his announcement.
He is in step with most Americans, who have moved past the old debates about climate change and are now dealing with the impacts. Reducing carbon pollution will help drought-stricken farmers in the Midwest, coastal residents from Florida to Connecticut rebuilding after storms, communities ravaged by wildfire in the West, children suffering from asthma, and taxpayers everywhere who have to foot the bill for the impacts of climate change.
Most Americans would be shocked to know that there are no current limits on carbon pollution from power plants. By setting the first standards in history for carbon pollution from power plants in the United States – which produce 2 billion tons of this pollution each year, or about 40% of the nation’s total – the President will help modernize our power system, ensuring that our electricity is reliable, affordable, healthy and clean. He can do so in a way that can give industry the flexibility it needs to make cost-effective investments in clean energy technologies.
I’m seeing plenty of reasons for hope these days. California recently put in place nearly economy-wide limits on carbon pollution – in the ninth largest economy in the world. Two weeks ago, the United States and China agreed to work together to reduce powerful greenhouse gases known as HFCs. And last week in the city of Shenzhen, the Chinese launched the first of seven emissions trading pilot programs.
But U.S. leadership is needed to help build on this progress and secure the reductions in carbon pollution scientists tell us we need at home and around the world. And the President today showed leadership, aligning common sense action with a vision of the future that will create a stronger America for our children and grandchildren.
We expect Members of Congress to strongly support the President. We know the usual naysayers will soon be claiming that we can’t afford to deal with this problem. The truth is we can’t afford not to. Those who oppose the President’s actions today apparently want no limits at all on carbon pollution. That’s a highly irresponsible position in the face of a scientifically established threat. In fact, failure to act now will only saddle our children’s generation with huge additional costs. Those who say they are concerned about the burden of fiscal deficits on coming generations should also worry about the enormous, and growing, costs of climate change.
Thanks to the President, the days of silence and inaction on climate are over. This plan could become an important part of his legacy.
We still have a long way to go. Now it’s up to all of us to join with the President in confronting the defining challenge of our time.