News, North America

Obama’s Biggest Step towards Climate Change

President Obama is hoped to use his executive power under the Clean Air Act to force new regulations, thus bypassing the Congress. His administration is preparing to publicize its biggest move towards curbing the planet-warming CO2 emissions. The unannounced plan has already kicked off talks about legal challenges and discourse over whether the emissions targets will infringe on jobs in the US and on cost to consumers. Washington is also worried whether other coal-burning nations – mostly China – will heed to follow the US example. The president’s idea is probably to motivate states to come up with their own solutions to reducing emissions and to advance regional “carbon trading” programs such as the system that US Governor Jay Inslee is striving to create in Washington State. Such programs typically impose a state cap on emissions but allow utilities to buy and sell permits enabling them to pollute.
Obama’s move against climate change pops up only weeks after a White House report depicted several ways in which climate change is getting detrimental to how Americans live. Recent studies have separately pointed out that high levels of carbon dioxide decrease the nutritional value of crops for yet unknown reasons. The CO2 levels in the Northern Hemisphere attained the historic benchmark of 400 parts per million for the whole month, which happened for the first time in April this year. The new emissions regulations would likely not go into full effect for many years, but it is anticipated that they would aim to decrease existing power plants’ carbon emissions by about a fourth by 2020. Obama’s upcoming agenda represents “the first time that the United States has taken a concrete step to reduce fossil carbon”, as described by Thomas Ackerman, director of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at University of Washington.

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