Stopping Global Warming
If we want to spare our children and grandchildren the worst consequences of global warming, we must dramatically reduce the carbon pollution that we pump into the atmosphere. And, as most scientists agree, we better do it soon. We need Washington to do much more, but we also need to build on our successes at the state and local level. Despite opposition from Big Oil and the coal industry, and short-term partisan politics in Congress, our staff and members are proving each day that there is a way forward on global warming.
The consequences: stronger storms and more
Global warming is the one of the most profound threats of our time — and we’re starting to feel the effects. In recent years we’ve seen stronger, more frequent storms like superstorm Sandy and Snowmaggedon on the East Coast. We’ve also seen devastating drought in the Midwest and destructive wildfires in the West, as well as historic flooding from Vermont to Iowa.
Extreme weather could become “the new normal” as global warming wreaks havoc on our climate. Read our report, Global Warming and Extreme Weather, to learn more. Global warming will also threaten our coastal communities with rising sea levels, drive many species to extinction, and threaten our health with dirtier air and the spread of infectious disease.
These dangers are cause for immediate action, but too often our elected officials have dragged their feet and given into the lobbying efforts of Big Oil, utilities and the coal companies. Still, there are clear opportunities to do what is necessary right now to protect future generations.
Cleaning up the largest polluters: power plants
Coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of carbon pollution, yet they lack any federal limits on their emissions. And while Congress has been unwilling to correct this problem, the Obama administration is developing standards that could finally hold power plants accountable for their carbon pollution.
In March 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever carbon pollution standards for new power plants, and the agency is expected to finalize these standards in the near future. Since we can’t possibly solve global warming if we keep building polluting power plants, these standards alone will be a critical first step.
Looking forward, we’re urging the Obama administration to also develop carbon pollution standards for existing power plants as soon as possible. These facilities have been allowed to spew unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air for decades, so these standards are long overdue—and essential for our efforts to tackle global warming.
States leading the way
The other good news is that even with Congress ignoring the need to act on global warming, many states are picking up the slack. California has started implementing its landmark cap on global warming pollution, after California voters overwhelming rejected an oil industry-funded attempt to block the program. And five other states have similar statewide caps on their pollution, which together will result in a 270 million metric ton reduction in global warming pollution by 2020.
One of the most important efforts outside of Washington, D.C. has been the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an agreement between ten Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to limit carbon pollution from power plants and invest in clean energy. So far, RGGI has been a tremendous success, generating more than $1 billion for clean energy programs.
But RGGI has come under attack from fossil fuel interests, who have helped convince New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others to support killing the program. Backsliding on this landmark policy would have serious repercussions on these states’—and the nation’s—efforts to tackle global warming. So our state affiliates are working to defend the program where it’s threatened, and strengthen the program so that it reduces pollution 20% by the end of the decade and moves the region toward more efficient, clean and renewable energy use.
Ask President Obama to lead on climate
- Average U.S. temperatures have increased by more than 2° Fahrenheit over the last 50 years, and 2012 is expected to be the hottest year on record. Temperatures are projected to rise by as much as an additional 7° F to 11° F on average by the end of the century, should emissions of global warming pollutants continue to increase.
- Carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil is the main cause of global warming, which increases the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events ranging from droughts and wildfires to hurricanes and severe flooding.
- Sea level along the East Coast has been rising at a rate of nearly 1 foot per century due to the expansion of sea water as it has warmed, and due to the melting of glaciers.
- By adopting clean energy policies at the local, state and federal levels, the United States could curb emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use by as much as 20% by 2020 and 34% by 2030.