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Dear Politicians, Your Reasons Against Climate Action Are Old and Irresponsible

Dear Politicians, Your Reasons Against Climate Action Are Old and Irresponsible

This is a guest post from Keith Gaby, climate communications director at the Environmental Defense Fund.

In the debate over President Obama’s proposal to address climate change, at least one important question has been overlooked. Opponents of his plan should have to answer this:

“Is it responsible to have NO limits on carbon pollution from power plants?”

That is the current situation – there are zero limits on carbon pollution from power plants, which are the largest sources of this type of pollution, emitting about 40% of carbon emissions in the United States. As far as I can tell, all Members of Congress who have announced opposition to the President’s plan also opposed the 2010 legislation to limit carbon pollution through a market-based system. None of them have since proposed a policy that would lead to any substantial reductions in carbon pollution. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that they are content with the status quo of no limits at all on this dangerous pollution from its largest source.

Although few of them seem to have been asked this question on the record, we predict they would do one of the following:

Immediately Fall Back on Their Talking Points: That the President’s plan will harm the economy and sacrifice jobs. This response doesn’t address the crucial question, and is the same tired argument that’s been made against every major environmental proposal in history—and then disproven. For instance, environmental protections put in place under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments have generated benefits to Americans that exceed costs by more than 30 to 1. This response ignores the much higher costs of allowing climate change to proceed unchecked – Hurricane Sandy alone may cost $65 billion. (Storms such as Hurricane Sandy are exactly what climate scientists have been predicting will occur with a changing climate.) Then there are the wildfires that burn twice as many acres as they did forty years ago and the costly droughts in agricultural areas, both of which are intensified by man-made climate change. There are many other costly impacts, as well. But mostly, the economic talking points of opponents to the President’s plan don’t answer the question.

Claim that Man-Made Climate Change Hasnt Been Proven: There’s little to say about this response except that it’s false. The National Academy of Sciences and the science academies of every major developed nation have endorsed the scientific consensus on climate change, as have all the major American scientific professional organizations and 97% of peer reviewed scientific studies. Members of the public who don’t have time to follow the science may have questions (though most of them agree climate change is happening anyway), but Members of Congress have no excuse to continue to deny what scientists are telling them. This “unproven” line is simply a dodge to avoid having to accept the need to act.

Point Out that Carbon Pollution in the U.S. Is Dropping: While it is true that there has been a temporary drop in industrial emissions due in part to the natural gas boom and slower economic growth, emissions are still at dangerously high levels.

Claim that Carbon Is not a Pollutant: Well, actually, the Supreme Court says it is, but, even so, this is a semantic argument. The carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we produce are trapping more and more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, with dangerous consequences.

Claim that Other Countries Arent Acting, So Why Should We: This is false and backwards. The European Union already has a climate pollution limit which guarantees that – whatever the temporary fluctuations due to market conditions – their pollution will be cut by 1.7% every year, 80% to 95% by 2050. China has begun to test cap and trade systems in key cities and provinces. In fact, 10 percent of the world’s population and a third of its GDP now come from areas limiting pollution. They need to do more, but the United States – historically the world’s largest emitter, and still the largest per capita – has to lead. Is it ever the case that the U.S. goes last in the face of an international threat?

So, please, ask opponents of the President’s plan: ”Is it responsible to have NO limits on carbon pollution from power plants?” And, if not, what’s their plan? There are probably lots of other good approaches to be found – from both parties and across the political spectrum. Let’s start having that debate.

This article originally appeared on the EDF Voices blog and is reprinted with permission.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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7:07AM PDT on May 23, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

6:59PM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

I think we should battle pollution also. At the same time, we should invest in infrastructure. Both of these will benefit us all. However, spending money fighting uncertain causes, which have not been shown to be harmful, seems rather wasteful.

9:08AM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

Linda : As an environmental engineer I agree with you 100%. The problem with going on to other topics without knowing who is lying is the money issue. It cost billions of dollars to get clean water, clean air (from pollution),and clean land. If trillions of dollars are going to correct a problem that does not exist,money down many rat holes, there is no money to do the things like repairing sewers in every city of the United States, and new sewers in other parts of the world. Repair and replace water systems that in many cases in many cities are 125 years old. Repair highways and bridges that were designed for 50 year life span and are 60 to 70 years old. There are other parts of our infrastructure that need repair or replacement.
There are many more reasons to know the truth so that the people can direct the expenditure of money to benefit the country not the politicians and fraudulent scientists that Cry Wolf about Man-made global warming.
There is an experiment that proves that the Greenhouse gas effect does not exist. This experiment which has been technologically reviewed by Ph.D physicists . Ph.D. Chemical engineers and others Ph. D’s in other fields The experiment is found on the web-site http:// click on the blog tab then on page 3 of 12. . It is titled "The Experiment that failed which can save the world trillions-Proving the greenhouse gas effect does not exist”

7:55AM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

Dan and Bert, regardless of who is lying, I want a world with less pollution, clean water and clean air. Silly old me! On to other topics.

6:06PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

You may want to view the recent data yourself.

You can believe the data or the hype.

5:09PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Linda M. The statement of the British Oceanographic Society does not match with available data, like more Arctic and Antarctic ice field.
Check this web-site
.In addition there are many astrophicists that are projecting that the earth is heading for a possible mini-ice age.
It is very difficult to find out who is lying, but someone is lying. Without a background in physics /science it is even harder. Keep an open mind ,new dependable info is coming out daily. The sky is not falling.

4:37PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Tonight on the news, the British Oceanographic Society said that while air temperatures have gone up a small amount, ocean temperatures have risen more dramatically. I prefer the insurance comparison...just in case, why not get some insurance by trying to reduce emissions? What do I know? I admit I'm not a scientist. I still believe in climate change. Oh well.

3:02PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Margaret G.: I looked up the web-site of and they have the credentials of these 47 scientists and scholars. It appears that most of them have at least one Ph. D and lots of other relevant initials. Many are retired from renounce university's, so check them out yourself.
Heartland Institute is funded by many different Donner,I believe they do not make them public. The AGW world has a habit of trying to discredit the integrate of an organization especially when it is conservative, and proving that the AGW is not telling the truth.
Do you know who is funding such organizations as Sierra Club , Greenpeace, WWF, Carbon 350,etc. Some of these organization say who there Donners are others do not. Those that do show that George Soros, funded foundations contribute to most of them. A web-search will show that George Soros a multi-billionaire with income from oil production, including drilling in the ocean off Brazil and many other businesses that gains lots of money from the "green movement" while giving only a small amount back to the green movement This still may be millions or low billions.

2:05PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

The IPCC stated recently that they are 95% confident that mankind has contributed more than half of the recent warming. According to GISS and CRU measurements, the globe has warmed 0.5C over that time. Therefore, the IPCC is 95% confident that mankind has caused a warming of 0.3C. Based on those assertions, we can expect an additional warming of ~0.5 attributed to man. The actual warming would depend on nature's contribution, which could be as much as 0.4C in either direction.
Many people incorrectly assume that because 95% of scientists believe that mankind has contirbuted to global warming, that they believe that temperatures will rise catastrophically also. There is a rather large disconnect between the two. This assumes that we do nothing to mitigate global warming also; business as usual. Now which group is closer to this 0.5C anticipated warming? Those who maintain that no warming will occur this century, or those who claim greater than 1C of warming?
The kicker is that most scientists acknowledge that the previous 0.5C of warming was beneficial to life on Earth, and that another 0.5C will continue to be beneficial (on the whole). Scientists differ as to at what temperature harmful effects override the benefits, but it is unlikely to occur this century. History shows that economic growth fuels environmental awareness. Some people seem to think that these two ideas are mutually exclusive, rather than linked together. Raise the standard of living

2:01PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Part 2 continuation from above or below.
The Koch Industries are one of the worlds larges manufactures of equipment used to prevent and correct pollution. I've designed many pollution control plants using Koch Industries or there competitors for water air, and waster water treatment plants.If government forces industry to Sequester CO2, Koch Industries would be a leader in the manufacturing of the equipment required. They could make billions, yet they are trying to educated the world that Mane-made climate change is a hoax thus it is wrong to waste the time and money to Sequester CO2.
Scanning through the multiple questions ,it is obvious that people are afraid to look at other web-site to get better information, like the authors and background of the truth rebuttal to the IPCC.
I will go through the replies and direct to where to get valid answers not the fabrications found in most Liberal newspapers from journalists not scientists.
After reviewing I realize that it has to much information for lay people,especially ones with little or no science background. I will monitor this site for questions and comments. I get back as quick as possible but because I am still working, it may be a day or two. As Dan seem to have a very good handle on the facts, I hope he jumps in whenever he can.

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