Earth Day arrives this year with serious questions about America’s commitment to preserve a clean environment and limit the risks posed by climate change. That’s because, on March 28, President Trump signed an executive order to start the process of dismantling several initiatives under the Obama administration to reduce pollution that drives climate change, pollution that also affects the air we breathe and the water we drink.
These initiatives became necessary when Congress failed in 2010 to enact legislation to price carbon. When control of the House of Representatives shifted to Republicans in 2011, efforts to legislate climate solutions came to a screeching halt. Faced with numerous impacts from climate change — rising seas, warmer temperatures, more severe weather, wildfires, health risks — Obama took several steps to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Action Plan.
The most important of these steps was the Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants by 32 percent by 2030. The CPP became an essential element in the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate accord, whereby America pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025.
Without the CPP, the U.S. is unlikely to meet its Paris commitment, a tremendous setback in global efforts to keep temperatures from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Crossing the “2C” threshold, scientists warn, will lead to catastrophic consequences that the…
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