The EPA has just taken historic action to cut carbon pollution that causes climate change.
That’s why I want you to picture this: the average temperature is about 10 degrees warmer than today, early ancestors of proto-humans (our ancestors’ ancestors) begin to walk the earth on two feet, Megalodon rules the seas, Arctic sea ice comes and goes, Greenland is actually pretty green, and cities like Norfolk, Suffolk, Miami, Wilmington, Charleston, and New Orleans are all completely underwater.
Allow me to paint another picture for you. It’s 1988, a gallon of gas is 91 cents, the summer has been a scorcher and is recorded as the hottest on record (up until that point). The science on global warming is still evolving but nearly everyone in the scientific community agrees that temperatures will rise if atmospheric carbon levels increase. NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, warning them that global warming is happening and that fossil fuels burned by humans are contributing to the problem.
Fast forward to 2014. It’s been over 25 years since Dr. Hansen’s testimony, fossil fuel power plants continue to spew millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year, contributing to about 40% of our nation’s total carbon emissions, and Norfolk is 2nd only to New Orleans when it comes to being threatened by sea level rise resulting from climate change. The fossil fuel industry has spent over $150 Million in campaign contributions since 1999, and the rhetoric of climate denial has reached a special level of insanity. There has been zero congressional action on climate change.
Enter the EPA and President Barack Obama. On June 2nd, 2014, the EPA, as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, released rules to reduce carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants. This is first time EVER that the federal government has moved to reduce carbon emissions and take action on climate change. This new regulation is a highly nuanced and flexible, 645 page document that sets a goal for each state that is tied to a baseline carbon emissions level from 2005. Each state has a different number that they are trying to reach but the goal is the same. Based on their carbon emissions from 2005, each state will create their own plan to reach a goal of a 30% reduction from those 2005 levels by the year 2030. This historic move by our President is not a silver bullet – it needs your help to be successful.
Since June 2nd, the Clean Power Plan has faced attacks from the fossil fuel industry and those who profit from it in an effort to spread misinformation and create fear about the new regulations. That’s why it’s important for you to show your support for the rules by submitting a comment to the EPA in support of the Clean Power Plan. You can do that by commenting online.
But things don’t stop there. Since each state will develop and implement its own plan to reach the EPA’s targets, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality held public listening sessions on the Clean Power Plan. At these sessions citizens had an opportunity to make public comments about the Clean Power Plan and the best way for Virginia to meet its target. Although the sessions are over you can still submit your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org. While you’re at it, follow this link to encourage Virginia officials to focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency as the top ways for us to meet our goal.
Finally, our elected leaders are starting to wake up but there is still a lot of work to do (and a short amount of time to do it) if we are to protect future generations from the worst effects of extreme climate disruption. We’re already seeing some of these effects today, from the increased intensity and number of storms, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires to health related stresses like increased hospitalizations due to higher incidents of heat exhaustion and the fact that extreme weather exacerbates symptoms underlying a wide range of diseases. We are dangerously close to certain trigger events that will cause feedback loops in the climate system (i.e. things that, caused by global warming, speed up warming) and once we pass those thresholds it is hard to see any turning back.
Are you screaming at the screen yet — “Well what do you want me to do”? – I hope so because that is what it will take, urgency and a lot of folks screaming to the top of their lungs at our elected leaders to take this problem seriously and address it with the same vigor and seriousness as they would any other national security issue. It will take organizing, it will take activism, it will take an effort from millions. This is the most urgent issue of our time. It is a threat to human civilization. We’re not trying to “save the planet”; Mother Earth will be here no matter what humans do to her, and she will bounce back and thrive. The question boils down to how humanity will fare.