President Obama’s announcement of his major climate initiative this week was a historic moment. We tuned in at the NRCM office yesterday to hear the speech and cheered for what he had to say. Finally, we are seeing real leadership that will help Maine and all Americans tackle climate change — the gravest environmental threat of our time — plus spur economic opportunities, and protect our health.
The era of climate change denial and action delay is over and it’s high time. The President has listened to the American people. Nearly two-thirds of voters (65%) support “the President taking significant steps to address climate change now.” More than 3.2 million people sent comments to the EPA in the last year in support of action to curb carbon pollution from all power plants, including more than 15,000 people from Maine.
When it comes to energy policy, our nation has been on the wrong road for too long. Due to climate change, Maine people are facing soaring temperatures, sea level rise, the loss of wildlife, and diseases from new invasive species. The Natural Resources Council of Maine has made climate change a major priority for 20 years. We have fought hard to clean up power plant pollution through lawsuits, testified before Congress, met with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Maine’s Congressional delegation, and delivered thousands of messages from Maine people directly to Washington.
At the heart of the President’s plan: ensuring that all power plants—new and existing—meet minimum air pollution standards. Power plants are the single largest source of climate changing pollution in the nation. America has already set limits for the emission of mercury, lead and arsenic from power plants, but we have let those power plants spew carbon pollution without restriction—until now.
The President’s plan also sets improved efficiency standards for home appliances and federal buildings, harnesses more renewable energy, and helps us to prepare for the climate change impacts we are already experiencing.
In 2012 alone, Maine broke 40 heat records, and 8 precipitation records. There may be four times more air pollution alert days in places like Augusta by end of the century. Sea-level rise and increased precipitation could jeopardize cities, as rainfall is expected to increase 20-30% by the late 21st century. Climate change is driving our native species further north and putting others at risk by damaging their habitat.
We must act. If we don’t, there will be even more extreme and destructive weather, hotter global temperatures, rising seas battering our coastlines, life-threatening diseases, and skyrocketing costs for disaster recovery. Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene that devastated the Northeast will become more and more the norm.
Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency to clean our air and protect our climate will also create jobs and a more resilient Maine economy. Since 1970, every $1 invested in meeting Clean Air Act standards has returned $4-8 in economic benefits.
We are pleased that Maine’s Congressional delegation understands that climate change is an urgent problem, and they are trying to support solutions. We hope they will stand behind these efforts to curb carbon pollution from power plants and overcome the unfortunate gridlock on climate action in Congress. We also hope they will swiftly confirm the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the EPA so that this critical work on climate can move swiftly forward.
Maine’s voice matters in national debates. We have a model for reducing power plant carbon emissions in the Northeast—the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). It makes good sense that the President’s plan includes the option of using state and regional approaches like RGGI to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and bring the rest of the nation along.
While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to act on behalf of future generations. Climate change represents one of the major challenges of the 21st century, but as a nation of innovators, we can and will meet this challenge in a way that advances our economy, our environment, and public health. We applaud President Obama for laying out a broad and common-sense plan for meeting our obligation to protect future generations from climate change.
Obama Outlines Ambitious Plan to Cut Greenhouse Gases – New York Times news story