Obama Environmental Legacy Will Benefit Americans and the Planet for Years to Come

By Margie Alt
Executive Director, Environment America

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” This proverb may well have guided President Obama over the past eight years as he protected our landscapes and led the world to limit the worst impacts of global warming.

From his Climate Action Plan to major investment in renewable energy and fuel economy standards to forging the historic Paris Climate Agreement, President Obama’s unprecedented leadership in cutting global warming emissions will ensure a brighter future for our planet and all of us who call it home.

2016 is in the books as the hottest year on record with new data showing the planet reached the highest temperature ever this past year; and the science could not be clearer – if we are to avoid the worst impacts that could render the planet uninhabitable, we need to take bold action urgently.  Across the world and here at home we are already experiencing the tragic results.  The city where I grew up, Long Beach, NY is just one unfortunate example of the kind of devastation wrought by the extreme weather events that global warming will continue to fuel.

The Obama Administration’s ground breaking Clean Power Plan imposed the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, setting the domestic stage for aggressive climate action. U.S. leadership coupled with the momentous agreement President Obama forged with China made international action to stave off the worst impacts of global warming and the Paris Climate Agreement possible. 

In addition, the Obama administration doubled fuel efficiency standards for cars and set new standards for trucks and buses, which will make them more efficient and less polluting, and will reduce carbon emissions by over seven billion metric tons of global warming pollution.

Simultaneously, the administration jumpstarted America’s clean energy revolution. Today, we have 20 times more solar power and three times more wind energy in the U.S. than when Obama took office. Energy efficiency is now more than just a sign of ‘personal virtue’ -- it’s the basis for our energy policy.

 

Right out of the gates, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invested $90 billion in research on renewable technology. Subsequently President Obama designated eight wind energy areas off the Atlantic Coast, which will provide clean power when it is needed most on hot summer afternoons and when winter heating needs are at capacity. And of course, the cleanest energy is the energy we don’t use. Since 2009, the Obama Administration issued 44 new or updated appliance standards on a range of appliances and equipment.

But President Obama went a step further actually helping to prevent future climate pollution by rejecting the Keystone Pipeline, which would have produced 26 million metric tons of carbon pollution each year. He followed that up with a win for our climate, our drinking water, and members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, when his administration stopped the Dakota Access Pipeline. And, perhaps his most far-reaching actions, President Obama permanently protected 98% of the U.S. Arctic Ocean and ecologically critical parts of the Atlantic from offshore drilling, guaranteeing no new leasing in these waters.

President Obama also had the foresight and the fortitude to protect many of the most sensitive and beloved places and creatures, so that future generations might experience the same wonders we do today. His administration protected more landscapes and water ecosystems than any president in history, conserving places like the vast Mojave Trail in California and the rocky spires of New Mexico’s Organ Mountains; designating Maine’s Katahdin lakes, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument forests, the first ever Atlantic Ocean marine monument.

Finally, over eight years President Obama made numerous decisions large and small to prevent pollution and improve our families’ health. His administration put new restrictions on mercury and other toxic pollution from power plants that will avert up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every year. His work to clean up our vehicles will prevent 3,600 premature deaths and nearly 100,000 asthma attacks annually. And, the administration’s Clean Water Rule restored protections to half our nation’s streams, which provide drinking water to 117 million Americans.

All things must come to an end including the Obama Administration. But thanks to President Obama our families and the planet we call home will benefit from his work for generations to come.