Obama’s climate plan goes far, but not nearly far enough

Adele Peters writes: “There’s such a thing as being too late.” So said President Obama as he unveiled the new Clean Power Plan, which aims to fight climate change — and theoretically help prevent catastrophic impact — by cutting emissions from power plants. By 2030, by speeding up the closure of coal power plants, the plan would trim electricity pollution by a third.

It’s a step in the right direction, especially for air pollution in the communities that have to live next to power plants. But is it enough to help avoid 2°C of global warming, the point at which things start looking more apocalyptic? Last year, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that in order to stay within the two-degree limit and avoid disaster, we’d have to cut emissions 41%-72% by 2050.

Power plants, unfortunately, are only a fraction of U.S. emissions. “Electricity is only about 20% of all energy, so this translates into reducing only about 6% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030,” says Mark Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere and Energy Program at Stanford University. “This is very insufficient.”

While Obama has also proposed some other new climate standards through the EPA, like tighter fuel-economy standards and cutting methane emissions from oil and gas wells, none of it adds up to what the IPCC says is necessary. [Continue reading…]

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