I plan to spend this Earth Day advocating for the single most important thing our nation can do to confront climate change: cutting carbon pollution from power plants. These plants kick out 40 percent of the carbon pollution in our country. Right now they are free to dump as much carbon pollution into our atmosphere as they want—intensifying climate change and endangering our health in the process. That’s not right. And it is about to stop.
President Obama is working to finally hold polluters accountable. His administration will release draft limits on this pollution in June. Fossil fuel companies and their allies in Congress are already attacking them.
I want to mark Earth Day by telling the Obama Administration that Americans support strong limits on carbon pollution. I urge you to do the same on Earth Day, because this day is dedicated to taking action for the environment, and climate change is the biggest challenge we face.
I was in college when tens of thousands of people marched on Washington for the first Earth Day. Raw sewage floated in rivers and clouds of smog hung over cities. But then something amazing happened. People spoke out. Thousands of students, workers, and ordinary citizens used their voices to say: this has to change. America can do better. And we must.
They were right. The energy unleashed on Earth Day resulted in real change: Congress passed bedrock environmental laws with broad bipartisan support (hard to imagine today) and citizens remained vigilant. Today our air is safer to breathe, our water is cleaner to drink, and our wild places are better protected. Americans made the environment better for all of us—because we used our voices and demanded it.
Now we must demand progress on climate change. The scale of the crisis is far greater than any we challenge we faced in the 1970s. In the past few weeks alone, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the world’s leading authority on climate science—issued two sobering reports. The first confirmed that heat waves, heavy rains, and other climate impacts are growing more intense. The second concluded that the world’s nations have not done enough to defuse this growing threat.
That is certainly true for the United States, but President Obama is helping change that, and the carbon limits for power plants—which the Environmental Protection Agency is developing right now— are a critical next step.
NRDC designed the blueprint the EPA’s standards are likely to be based on, and we know deep cuts are possible. The U.S. could reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 21 to 31 percent by 2020 using cost-effective technology. That represents a major dent in US carbon emissions—equivalent to taking up to 130 million cars off the road. These reductions would yield up to $60 billion in avoided climate and medical costs in 2020 and reduce household electric bills.
And yet opposition to these benefits is fierce. Fossil fuel companies are spending millions trying to elect lawmakers who will block carbon limits in Congress. And ALEC—a group of Tea Party supporters and corporate giants including the Koch brothers, Peabody Coal, and ExxonMobil—has introduced bills in statehouses aimed at preventing states from upholding national limits on carbon pollution.
We have to fight back against these attacks with the same intensity people brought to the first Earth Day events. That energy is alive and well today. I see it in the ranchers and Native Americans who rally against the Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil. I see it in the families who resist fracking companies. And I see it in the students who call on their schools to embrace renewable power.
This Earth Day lets channel some of that energy to the climate fight. Click here to tell the EPA you support the strongest carbon standards possible.