MANY OBJECTIONS are being raised about EPA's proposal to cut CO2 emissions by as much as 30 percent by 2030. Such resistance is predictable, reactionary, and completely unjustified.
To the contrary, if comparable restrictions are not adopted and successfully implemented soon, the consequences for Georgians and other Americans will become increasingly dire.
Modest as EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” is, it’s an important step in the difficult process of reducing serious harms to public health, the economy, and world climate. In fact, the downside ramifications of NOT embracing such controls are already mounting.
“Risky Business,” a report co-sponsored by a team of renowned governmental and business leaders, warns that human-induced climate change will cause substantially worsening crop losses, reduced labor productivity, heat-related illnesses, premature deaths, and property risks, especially in the Southeast.
Although this report provides a long-overdue, compelling appeal to the business sector—an influential player that has fiercely fought climate policy —its implications reach far beyond economic interests.
Further vindicating the crucial need for carbon controls is the most recent National Climate Assessment, which reveals a range of trends that are already producing troubling consequences. Rising land- and ocean-surface temperatures, sea level, and ice melt as well as global glacier mass reduction all point toward an array of profound problems that are accelerating and compounding.
The implications include:
• Destruction of forests by wildfire—to increase at least 50% by mid-century.
• Increased food prices due to crop failures – as alternating drought and flooding curtail harvests.
• Destruction of coastal property from rising sea-level and powerful storm-surges —as much as $100 billion lost by 2050, and possibly five times that much by the end of the century.
• Compromised power-plant capacity and more frequent brown-outs.
• Escalating water-supply conflicts.
As Risky Business team-member Tom Steyer says, “The longer we wait to address the growing risks of climate change, the more it will cost us all.”
In light of these warnings by leaders from across the political spectrum, taking action to reduce the causes of global warming is both urgent and prudent. Contrary to those who exaggerate the burden of proposed carbon-controls by focusing on a few temporary impacts, objective assessment indicates that EPA’s plan will produce at least eight times more benefits than costs.
• Reduced medical costs ... minimum of $55 billion annually
• Averted property damage ... minimum of $50 billion, likely double that.
• Avoided brown-outs and power-plant shut-downs... at least $100 billion.
• Reduced power costs – an estimated 8% cut – equivalent to $10 billion annually.
• Protection of crops, timber, and fisheries ... worth at least $110 billion a year.
Unquestionably, EPA’s carbon-control plan is an essential beginning, but should go further. For instance, the carbon footprint of all energy sources must be more carefully examined and regulated accordingly. Based on reliable studies, the ‘life-cycle’ carbon burden of nuclear power is substantial, yet the Plan treats nukes as carbon-neutral.
In the interest of the nation’s future, we must actively support timely controls on carbon emissions.
David Kyler is Executive Director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, in St. Simons Island, Ga.
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