Throwing The Kitchen Sink At Climate Change

Climate Change Campaigners Begin A Week Of Direct Action Camps

Ryan Koronowski outlines the main talking points from Obama’s climate speech at Georgetown University, which will take place later this afternoon:

The plan, according to senior administration officials, has three pillars: cutting carbon pollution in America, leading international efforts to cut global emissions, and preparing the U.S. for the costly impacts of climate change. President Obama will frame action as a moral obligation to do what we can for “the world we leave our children.”

Executive action remains one of the only serious avenues left to cut greenhouse gas emissions — a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that the U.S tax code is not currently doing it, and congressional action still looks unlikely. Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary, said in his briefing Monday that the president’s view “reflects reality.” Carney said “we’ve seen Congress attempt to deal with this issue and fail to.”

Brad Plumer calls the White House plan a “kitchen sink approach”:

The White House is asking the EPA to propose rules for those existing plants by the summer of 2014 and finish them by 2015. “It’s an aggressive timeline and everyone will have a strong opinion about it,” says a senior administration official. “And we’re focused on making sure there’s adequate time to engage key stakeholders here.” …

[T]he White House is pursuing a slew of complementary measures, too. For instance: The White House is hammering out an agreement with China and other countries to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent greenhouse gas used in everything from soda machines to many car air conditioners. The administration will also develop a plan for curbing methane emissions from natural-gas production. The Energy Department will set new efficiency standards for appliances and buildings. The Interior Department will try to speed up wind and solar development on public lands. Foreign-aid agencies will cease financing coal plants overseas (except when there are no possible alternatives).

Molly Redden, meanwhile, previews the coming legal battles over any EPA action:

“There is no end to the legal creativity of the regulated industry,” said Lisa Heinzerling, a professor of environmental law at the Georgetown University Law Center. David Hawkins, director of climate programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, agreed. “Virtually every rule that the EPA adopts under the Clean Air Act,” which the Obama administration will use to regulate power plants, “is litigated. So the fact that it’s litigated doesn’t say a thing about the strength of polluters’ legal arguments,” he said.

And yet, as Simon Lazarus and Doug Kendall have pointed out for Grist, any challenge to new regulations would wind up before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where conservative appointees hold a majority. And the threat of a court decision against them has already cowed the EPA into delaying its rules for new power plants earlier this year.

Jonathan Cohn considers the implications for international climate policy:

The U.S. and other nations have agreed to finalize a climate agreement in 2015, at another upcoming summit. If, by then, the U.S. is on track to fulfill its previous pledge, other nations might be more inclined to agree to more reductions of their own. Many experts believe that round of international negotiations represents the next, and maybe the last, great chance to avoid some serious and potentially devastating changes to the climate—among them, more severe weather like droughts, floods, and storms.

Philip Radford hopes the speech marks a beginning rather than an end:

[T]o truly meet his obligation to future generations, this must be the foundation – not the final act – of his climate legacy. The current Congress has made it clear that it will be on the wrong side of history, so it is absolutely vital for the President to use his authority to reduce power plant pollution, move forward with renewable energy projects on public lands, and increase energy efficiency. What the President will propose today is just a part of what it’s possible to do without Congress, and to solve the climate crisis, the solutions will have to be equal to or greater than the problem.

(Photo: A man poses for a picture with a kitchen sink at the Climate Camp on Black Heath on August 26, 2009 in London, England. By Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.)