The human-caused warming of our planet is the greatest environmental challenge facing our civilization. Studies suggest that global temperatures could rise up to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, which would have unprecedented and devastating effects. We are already seeing the effects of climate change both here in the U.S. and across the globe. Severe droughts, more powerful storms, larger wildfires, flooding, and sea level rise are already threatening communities across the country. 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental U.S. and the decade between 2001 and 2010 was the warmest our planet has ever seen.
We are already paying the price for unchecked climate change. Extreme weather costs the U.S. a staggering $485 billion per year, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Hurricane Sandy alone cost $70 billion in direct damages and lost economic output.
It is critical that we begin reducing our emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases responsible for global warming, which means modernizing the way we produce and consume energy. Today, much of our energy comes from fossil fuels—coal for electricity and gas to power our vehicles. But burning those dirty energy sources means emitting air pollution that endangers our health, traps heat in our atmosphere, and contributes to global warming and all its costly and dangerous impacts. We can reduce this pollution by using less energy, using the energy we do use more efficiently, and replacing dirty sources of energy with clean sources of energy like wind and solar power. This transition to clean energy will create millions of American jobs while strengthening our national security as we reduce our dependence on oil—all while fighting global warming.
While LCV remains committed to passing comprehensive legislation to address climate change and spur a clean energy economy, we are working with the Obama administration to reduce the harmful pollution driving climate change while we build support for legislative action in the years to come.
The Obama administration, through a partnership with the Department of Transportation and the EPA recently finalized clean car standards that roughly double fuel efficiency by 2025 and, for the first time, require reductions in carbon pollution. These standards are widely supported by the auto industry, autoworkers, consumer advocates, and environmentalists because they will save consumers money at the pump, reduce our dangerous dependence on oil, reduce carbon pollution, and create jobs.
In June 2013, President Obama unveiled a comprehensive Climate Action Plan. The central pillars of this plan are: reducing carbon pollution from the nation’s biggest emitters, coal-fired power plants and cars; reducing energy consumption; expanding clean energy; preparing for global warming’s impacts on our communities and natural resources; and leading international efforts to address climate change. This plan builds on important progress undertaken since President Obama took office. In December 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency made the determination that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases pose a danger to public health and welfare. This science-based endangerment finding, a result of the Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, gives the EPA the authority and the responsibility under the Clean Air Act to hold polluters accountable by limiting the carbon pollution they dump into our atmosphere.
Big Oil and Dirty Coal have predictably responded by demanding a free pass to continue polluting. Their allies in Congress, led by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), have pushed legislation that would permanently block the EPA from reducing carbon pollution. LCV will continue working with allies in the Senate and the Obama administration to defeat these disastrous assaults on the administration’s efforts to address climate change.
Passing a comprehensive bill to reduce global warming pollution that will bring about a clean energy economy is essential to tackling the climate crisis. To that end, LCV worked hard to ensure passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) in the House of Representatives in June 2009. This landmark legislation, while not perfect, would have helped rebuild our manufacturing base by creating millions of clean energy jobs, boosted our national security by lessening our dependence on oil, and protected the planet. Regrettably, defenders of the dirty energy status quo, including the nation’s biggest oil and coal companies and their Senate allies, succeeded in preventing even a vote on similar legislation in the Senate.
It is critical that we enact national legislation to put a price on carbon and spur our nation’s transition to clean energy sources, but given the anti-environmental leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, the most promising near-term avenues for progress remain the executive actions outlined above.
In addition, LCV remains committed to establishing a global climate treaty. Climate change is a global problem that requires cooperation among nations. LCV is strongly committed to working with Congress and the Obama administration to ensure that the United States fulfills the 17% global warming pollution reduction commitment by 2020 and international funding pledges our nation made at the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009. The President’s Climate Action Plan takes strides towards meeting the pollution reduction commitment and we will continue to work with organizational allies and the Administration to establish a new global treaty at the United Nations’ international climate conference in Paris in 2015.