Obama’s new Clean Power Plan is a huge win for people and animals everywhere

The stage is now set for meaningful action at the global level.  “We only get one home. We only get one planet. There is no plan B.”

That’s how President Obama distilled the bottom line on climate change, in an historic announcement Monday at the White House.  

The occasion was his unveiling of the federal government’s new Clean Power Plan -- which sets tough new pollution standards for power plants -- and it was an unusually joyous affair compared to most press conferences about environmental collapse.

So many standing ovations, broad grins, even a handful of celebratory whoops from audience members that you would think Obama was speaking at a college campus. But this was in front of a motley crew of politicos, scientists, and business leaders. That’s because what many people thought would be impossible has come to fruition, and the stage is now set for meaningful action, finally, at the global level.  

Despite the best efforts of the fossil fuel industry and its backers in Congress, the debate on climate change is settled, and anyone with half an eye on the news knows that it’s already playing havoc with the planet: worsened droughts, harsher storms, rising sea levels.

Wildlife and people alike face a daunting future, and that “future” has become “the present” a lot quicker than expected – melting ice caps are already leaving animals like polar bears with less habitat, water-parched lands are turning into deserts and leaving elephants in the dust…the list goes on and on.

Against that backdrop, it’s clear that business as usual is the wrong answer. The Clean Power Plan (CPP) is the Obama Administration’s alternative, and is the biggest step the United States has ever taken to address climate change. The CPP puts our country on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 32% by 2030, mostly by prioritizing renewable energy like wind and solar, and by phasing out coal-fired power plants.

Our health will also improve as a result, since those polluting energy sources are also a major cause of childhood asthma and other diseases. And the transition should be relatively straightforward for states to implement, while actually lowering costs for consumers.

Let’s be clear: the CPP won’t singlehandedly turn our energy problems around. We need to stop drilling for oil offshore in the Arctic. We need to stop pretending that “clean coal” is anything but an alliterative oxymoron. Other major carbon emitters like China, India and the European Union need to enact and strengthen their own carbon policies.

But compared to where we stood last week, the United States is now a world leader on the fundamental challenge of the 21st century, and that’s something to be proud of.


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