[Vision2020] Climate Warnings, Growing Louder

Art Deco art.deco.studios at gmail.com
Sun May 19 05:35:04 PDT 2013

  [image: The New York Times] <http://www.nytimes.com/>

May 18, 2013
Climate Warnings, Growing Louder By THE EDITORIAL

The news that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the most
important global warming gas, have hit 400 parts per
the first time in millions of years increases the pressure on
Obama to deliver on his pledges to limit this country’s greenhouse gas

America cannot solve a global problem by itself. But as Mr. Obama rightly
observed in his inaugural address, the United States, as both major
polluter and world leader, has a deep obligation to help shield the
international community from rising sea levels, floods, droughts and other
devastating consequences of a warming planet. In his State of the Union
speech, he promised to take executive action if Congress failed to pass
climate legislation.

Which is just what he will have to do. The prospects for broad-based
Congressional action putting a price on carbon emissions are nil. The House
is run by people who care little for environmental issues generally, and
Senate Republicans who once favored a pricing strategy, like John McCain
and Lindsey Graham, have long since slunk away. Meanwhile, Republicans on
the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have spent the last two
weeks trying to
Obama’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency — a
named Gina McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy has served two Republican governors (Mitt
Romney was one) but is considered suspect by the right wing because she
wants to control carbon pollution, which is driving global temperatures

Hence the need for executive action. Yet we are now four months into Mr.
Obama’s second term, and there is no visible sign of a coherent strategy.
One plausible reason is that Mr. Obama has been preoccupied with other
issues and that his key players on climate have not been in place. But that
excuse disappears if Ms. McCarthy can survive a threatened Senate
filibuster; even if she does not, Mr. Obama has sufficient talent in the
E.P.A. and the Energy Department and among his science advisers to get

As this page has
it is possible to adopt a robust climate strategy based largely on
executive actions. The most important of these is to invoke the E.P.A.’s
authority under the Clean Air Act to limit pollution from stationary
industrial sources, chiefly the power plants that account for almost 40
percent of the country’s carbon emissions. The agency is reworking a
proposed rule to limit emissions from new power plants. A more complex but
no less necessary task is to devise rules for existing power plants, which
cannot be quickly shuttered without endangering the country’s power supply,
but which can be made more efficient or phased out over time.

Mr. Obama can also order the E.P.A. to curb the enormous leakage of
methane, a potent global warming agent, from gas wells and the pipes that
bring natural gas to consumers. This is critical if America’s bountiful
supplies of cheap natural gas are to become a cleaner bridge from coal to
alternative energy sources like wind and solar power.

He can hasten the development of less-polluting alternatives to
older-generation refrigerants and other chemicals. He can order the Energy
Department to embark on a major program to improve the efficiency of
appliances and commercial and residential buildings, which consume a huge
chunk of the country’s energy supply. And he can ramp up investment in
basic research.

All of this will take time, which is why it is important to get started.
The most important of Mr. Obama’s first-term environmental initiatives —
the historic fuel economy standards that will double the efficiency of
America’s cars and light trucks — took more than three years to complete
between the time they were proposed and when they were finalized last
New power plant standards can be expected to take at least as long.

Mr. Obama has a firm grasp of the climate issue, and no one doubts that he
cares about it. But as is often the case with this president, the question
is whether he will exhibit a sense of urgency to match his intellectual

Art Deco (Wayne A. Fox)
art.deco.studios at gmail.com
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