Largely due to destruction caused by recent climate-related extreme weather events in the United States, there is a new urgency in our nation to adopt additional carbon pollution reduction measures. In 2011 and 2012, 21 such events each caused $1 billion or more in damages. This new evidence demonstrates that our climate change problem is much more imminent and severe than previously thought. Instead of idly waiting for the next devastating storm, flood, drought, or heat wave to hit, we should tackle climate change head on by further reducing our carbon pollution.
The World Bank, International Energy Agency, and the U.N. Environment Programme have all issued reports since the presidential election last month predicting a steep escalation in carbon pollution in the atmosphere over the coming decades. These warnings heighten the necessity of reducing carbon and the other pollutants responsible for climate change. If we don’t take action now, we will inevitably face more devastating changes to our weather, water, land, air, and food supply. We must reduce carbon pollution from power plants to help fight climate change and its associated destructive extreme weather, as well as other serious public health impacts such as respiratory deaths and illnesses caused by more smog and the onset of tropical diseases.
The Obama administration has proposed—and should promptly finalize—a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. Additionally, it should develop, propose, and promulgate a standard for existing power plants, as they are the single largest unregulated carbon pollution source, comprising 40 percent of total U.S. emissions. The Clean Air Act provides the executive authority to require such emission reductions without congressional action, which would likely be delayed or blocked considering that many congressional Republican leaders adamantly deny the existence of human-induced climate change.
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