Climate Photo of the Week
President Obama reveals his Executive Branch climate plan: Coal plant CO2 emissions to be controlled under Clean Air Act, efficiencies and renewables get strong emphasis, but much carbon pollution will continue.
"As a President, as a father, and as an American," Barack Obama declared in his first major speech about climate change, "I’m here to say we need to act." The President laid the foundation of a detailed new climate plan action squarely on the decades of scientific field work, research and analysis by scientists: "The question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science -- of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements -- has put all that to rest." Mr. Obama's speech is a positive step forward for a nation which has had major Federal climate legislation blocked by members of Congress and only infrequent public statements from the President. Speaking in shirtsleeves on a 93 degree day at Georgetown University, he used the term "carbon pollution" 30 times and described a litany of recent damaging effects from rapid climate change, saying "I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing."
Major actions which will emanate from within the Executive Branch, in Mr. Obama's words:
• "... for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants."
• "... we're going to reduce carbon pollution -- by using more clean energy.... So the plan I'm announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun.
• "... the third way to reduce carbon pollution is to waste less energy -- in our cars, our homes, our businesses."
• "... in the meantime, we're going to need to get prepared. And that’s why this plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid."
• "... the final part of our plan calls on America to lead -- lead international efforts to combat a changing climate.... We can't stand on the sidelines. We've got a unique responsibility.... to help more countries skip past the dirty phase of development and join a global low-carbon economy. They don’t have to repeat all the same mistakes that we made."
• "We’re going to need to give special care to people and communities that are unsettled by this transition -- not just here in the United States but around the world. And those of us in positions of responsibility, we’ll need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of posterity."
"What we need in this fight," the President said, "are citizens who will stand up, and speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands. Understand this is not just a job for politicians.... Make yourself heard on this issue." At the beginning and end of the speech, Obama referred to the the iconic "Earthrise" image made by Apollo 8 astronauts who first circled the moon in 1968, saying, "that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface, containing everything we hold dear -- the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity -- that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if we remember that, I’m absolutely sure we'll succeed."
The speech was notable in its clarity about the science, effects and human cause of rapid climate change -- and the use of the term "carbon pollution" -- however the Obama plan does not actually address all that climate science is telling us. There is very little time for the world to stop almost all carbon pollution. The CO2, methane and black carbon from all kinds of fossil fuels, is leading toward increasing disruption, disaster and death from a projected temperature rise of 7 degrees F or more. The President ordered coal fired electrical power plants to be regulated by the EPA under the Clean Air Act for their emissions, but there was no mention of the coal industry's drive to expand its market overseas and roll hundreds of trains a month full of coal out to west coast ports. Obama's U.S. energy policy of "all of the above" spends precious time and funding on fossil fuels instead of going full bore toward non-carbon sources. For example, the President said, "we should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer," because that mostly-methane fuel produces only about 60% of the CO2 as coal when burned. But gas is still a fossil fuel, and the expansion of gas drilling through hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- is polluting water supplies, and leakage of pipes puts methane directly into the air, greatly increasing the carbon pollution.
For Bostonians and travelers in the NE this summer, the photography exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science is an engrossing review of science, effect and solution. Please see the article below and our Actions page for details of why we need to act and become part of the movement, the vision and a plan to stop using all kinds of carbon fuels in the shortest possible time. World View of Global Warming provides many illustrated, science-based ways to learn about climate change and how to reduce it.
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