The article appeared in Global Times (US Edition)
President Barack Obama made a forceful plea to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in his speech at Georgetown University last month. His administration, he said, would impose tighter pollution controls on coal- and gas-fired utilities and establish strict conditions for approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (which would carry crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico).
Obama plans to cut carbon pollution, prepare the country for the rising number of extreme weather events such as hurricanes and droughts, invest more in clean-energy sources and help lead international efforts to combat climate change.
“It’s a serious challenge, but it’s one uniquely suited to America’s strengths. We’ll need scientists to design new fuels and farmers to grow them…We’ll need engineers to devise new sources of energy and businesses to make and sell them,” he said.
Obama is trying to frame climate change as a make-or-break political issue, urging Americans to vote only for those who will protect the country from environmental harm, AP reported. He says US is already paying a price, both in lost lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. “If you agree with me, I’ll need you to act,” Obama said in his latest weekly radio and Internet address.
According to a World Bank Group report published last month, global temperatures will rise by 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) in the next 20 to 30 years. The report said forty per cent of the land used to grow maize in Africa could no longer support the crop; parts of major cities in South Asia, including Bangkok, could be underwater; and the fish stocks in parts of Southeast Asia could decline by 50 per cent.
Asked what the US government should do to minimize mounting economic and human costs of climate change, Harvard University Prof Jeffrey Frankel said: “The US should stop subsidizing fossil fuels, and tax them instead.”
There’s no substitute for aggressive national targets to reduce emissions. Today, the burden of emissions reductions lies with a few large economies, including the US, China, India and the European Union. The moves by the US and other big emitters to cut emissions from coal-fired plants are an important step forward.
Obama said: “The federal government will partner with communities seeking help to prepare for droughts and floods, reduce wildfires risks, protect dunes and wetlands that pull double duty as green space and as natural storm barriers.”
Recently, China and the US agreed to phase down production and consumption of HFCs. This could cut two years’ worth of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, slowing the arrival of a warmer world.
In the US, states and cities have been taking the lead. California, for instance, has started by aggressively reducing diesel emissions. These emissions have a warming impact 460 to 1,500 times stronger than carbon dioxide.
Speaking to Global Times, Werner Baer, prof of economics, University of Illinois said: “The US government must provide increased tax incentives to produce more efficient cars and especially to encourage more people to use public transportation.”
Obama said his government would take climate change into consideration in its everyday operations. The shift could affect decisions on a range of issues, including bridge heights and flood insurance rates.
The actions make clear that the President will bypass Congress in seeking to reshape the federal government and the nation’s electricity sector. The aggressive posture also sets up major confrontations with the fossil fuel industry and its Republican allies.
According to the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group, there are 1,142 coal-fired utilities in the US and 3,967 natural-gas-fired plants, all of which would face new carbon limits under Obama’s proposal.
Even though there are enormous political and technical challenges, President Obama has injected a new sense of hope in the fight against climate change.