President Obama Stands Behind Climate Change
In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published it Fifth Assessment Report detailing the potentially disastrous affects of climate change and describing the consequences of growing human influence on climate systems across continents.
The Synthesis Report confirmed that warming of the climate system is indisputable. “Our assessment finds that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen and the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased to a level unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” said Thomas Stocker, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.
On August 3rd, President Obama proposed a plan that would include the United States among the many countries that have registered and are responding to climate change. Along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the administration proposed the Clean Power Plan to tackle the climate issue, hopefully reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from power plants by 2030.
“Over the past three decades, nationwide asthma rates have more than doubled, and climate change puts those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital,” President Obama said in a statement August 3rd. He continued, “As one of America’s governors has said, ‘we’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”
Recognizing that action must be taken swiftly, the plan calls for each state to put together its own plan for reducing emissions by September 2016. This, the administration hopes, will allow each state to create a plan that works for them while keeping 870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of the atmosphere (the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road) each year.
The Synthesis Report found that continued emission of greenhouse gasses will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, affecting all levels of society. Reduction of these emissions is at the core of limiting the risks of climate change. Especially as mitigation reduces the rate and magnitude of warming, it also increases the time available for adaptation to a particular level of climate change, potentially by several decades.
“It is technically feasible to transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. “But what is lacking are appropriate policies and institutions. The longer we wait to take action, the more it will cost to adapt and mitigate climate change.”
Since signing on to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it has been the responsibility of nations to ‘stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.’ The United States, by adhering to this new plan, would be placing itself on the right side of climate history as a Nation committed to further protecting the planet and upholding protocols that set binding limits on greenhouse gases.
The Clean Power Plan could demonstrate that the U.S. sticks to its goals, keeping the country on target to meet the economy-wide emissions targets set in the past (reducing emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025). This plan could provide significant public health benefits while creating tens of thousands of jobs and ensuring grid reliability. It could drive a much-needed and necessary investment in clean energy technologies and efficiency improvements in low-income communities.
“No single action, no single country will change the warming of the planet on its own,” said Obama. “But today, with America leading the way, countries representing 70 percent of the carbon pollution from the world’s energy sector have announced plans to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. In December, with America leading the way, we have a chance to put in place one of the most ambitious international climate agreements in human history.”