We have only one planet. While U.S. cities and counties have taken the initiative to respond to climate change, the federal government must lead. Arlington, Virginia adopted a transformative Community Energy Plan in 2013 after four years of broad community discussion and rigorous research. The plan sets an ambitious goal of reducing Arlington’s greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050. That will enhance our competitiveness and protect the environment. Yet we look to our state and federal government for support and leadership.
Fortunately, President Barack Obama understands that and is unwilling to defer to a dysfunctional Congress. In a bold move that will safeguard the health and safety of our children and future generations, the Obama administration has unveiled the Clean Power Plan, delivering on its promise to address the primary cause of climate change: carbon pollution from power plants.
Power plants are responsible for nearly 40 percent of carbon pollution in the United States. We already limit arsenic, soot and other dangerous pollutants. Why not carbon?
The Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Environmental Protection Agency projects its plan could prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children and up to 490,000 missed work and school days by 2030. It also could prevent 3,300 heart attacks and up to 2,800 hospital admissions. These are real numbers — and real people.
States will be given the flexibility they need to reach their goals for reducing carbon pollution, empowering them to choose from various strategies from energy efficiency to investments in clean energy.
The plan will ensure that we never have to choose between clean air and a strong economy. It will drive innovation in clean energy sources, grow our economy and create jobs. The EPA estimates that the plan will provide public health and climate benefits worth $55 billion to $93 billion per year by 2030, far outweighing the costs.
I am tired of climate deniers. The immediate need to address carbon pollution is rooted in strong scientific evidence. Scientists are about as certain that climate change is a real and man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill. The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it clear, once again, that more than 97 percent of all climate scientists worldwide agree that climate change is happening, is serious and needs to be addressed now.
The National Climate Assessment, the most comprehensive report on the impacts of climate change on the United States, outlined the effects of climate change, such as heat waves, flooding, drought and more frequent extreme weather. Both reports add to the decades of mounting scientific evidence and further validate that the debate over the science is over.
Virginia is in the thick of it, as one of the states most affected by sea-level rise. Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently established the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission.
Nationwide, businesses, faith groups, public-health advocates, industry, national security and labor groups have demanded action against climate change, and now stand ready to support this lifesaving safeguard at the EPA’s public hearings, and here in Arlington.
I support the carbon pollution standards because our communities deserve bold steps to secure a safe, healthy and economically sustainable future. As the Native American proverb wisely states, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
Jay Fisette is the chair of the Arlington County Board. He wrote this for The Washington Post.