On Monday, the Obama administration finally ordered limits on carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants. Previously, there were no limits whatsoever. Hard to believe. But true. Especially when you think about people like Tim DeChristopher, who was thrown in prison a few years ago for trying to block the sale of land in Utah to oil and gas companies, and who was realizing in 2008, the year that Obama was elected, how fucked we are:
I met Terry Root, one of the lead authors of the IPCC report, at the Stegner Symposium at the University of Utah. She presented all the IPCC data, and I went up to her afterwards and said, “That graph that you showed, with the possible emission scenarios in the twenty-first century? It looked like the best case was that carbon peaked around 2030 and started coming back down.” She said, "Yeah, that’s right." And I said, "But didn’t the report that you guys just put out say that if we didn’t peak by 2015 and then start coming back down that we were pretty much all screwed, and we wouldn’t even recognize the planet?" And she said, "Yeah, that’s right." And I said: "So, what am I missing? It seems like you guys are saying there’s no way we can make it." And she said, "You’re not missing anything. There are things we could have done in the ’80s, there are some things we could have done in the ’90s—but it’s probably too late to avoid any of the worst-case scenarios that we’re talking about." And she literally put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry my generation failed yours." That was shattering to me.
Fast forward to 2012, and power plants in Washington State were still emitting 6.1 million metric tons of carbon pollution—equal to the yearly pollution from over 1 million cars. Under Obama's new plan, the state must cut emissions by 72 percent by 2030. And we might just meet that target—Washington is already in the process of shutting down its last coal-fired power plant, in Centralia. The new rules are popular politically, too. According to a poll from the Washington Post and ABC News, carbon limits enjoy the support of 70 percent of the public, across party lines.
The White House says it's taking action in part because of the connection between carbon pollution and rates of asthma, which afflicts nearly 10 percent of Washington’s adult population and 7 percent of its kids.
On the far opposite end of sane people like DeChristopher and growing numbers of the citizenry, there's the National Republican Congressional Committee, which sent out an e-mail blast yesterday castigating the new emissions rules as "job destroying." In particular, they promise that House Representative Suzan DelBene will face "the political fight for her life this November." They claim she's failed to "ensure Washington families have more fiscal stability." DelBene represents Washington's 1st District, stretching from Redmond to Canada, including the proposed site of the Cherry Point coal export terminal.
What's worse, destroying jobs or destroying the planet, though? Oh, right—Republicans are still in denial about that last one.