David Durfee & Kathleen James: Climate action, now and for the future
As the daily drama unfolds in Washington, climate change continues unabated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that July was the hottest month on record — almost two degrees warmer than the average for the last century—and that the past five years were the warmest ever recorded.
It's no secret that confronting warming temperatures is not a priority for the current administration, which has been dismantling climate policy from Day One. President Trump wasted no time in announcing he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Accords, the international agreement to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions that's been ratified by 187 nations and the European Union. Just this week, he made it official.
Mr. Trump has attempted to reverse other successful initiatives that have been critical in improving our air and water quality—and have the side benefit of slowing climate change. He has called for eliminating the Clean Power Plan, which targets harmful emissions from burning coal. To make it easier to access oil and gas, he weakened the Endangered Species Act and repealed offshore drilling regulations enacted after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Now he wants to open public lands like the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to exploration and allow coal plants to let lead seep into water supplies.
In August, Trump's EPA announced plans to eliminate rules that reduce harmful methane leaks from pipelines and drilling sites--essentially giving oil and gas companies the greenlight to accelerate their emissions. Methane is 30 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and according to the Clean Air Task Force, the move would be the equivalent of 22 million cars releasing CO2.
This fall, Trump decided to prevent California from continuing to set its own auto emissions standards.
Dating back to the Clean Air Act and efforts to combat air pollution in the 1970s, California's highly successful standards (which Vermont and a dozen other states also adhere to) are more stringent than the national standards. Like Vermonters, Californians have long understood that environmental standards are good for the economy, protecting natural resources that help drive tourism, as well as generating new jobs. With the transportation sector amounting to a third of CO2 emissions, this is a giant leap backwards for both air quality and climate change.
Several automakers, including Ford and Honda, are opposed to the Trump administration's efforts to undermine California's common-sense emissions rules. The rest of the developed world — and even China — have stricter emissions standards that U.S. automakers will need to meet if they want to stay globally competitive. Characteristically, Trump is now suing the auto industry to prevent them from maintaining higher environmental standards.
Against this federal backdrop, state and local governments are taking action. Like a majority of their fellow Americans, Vermonters understand the threat posed by a warming planet and the economic opportunities offered by clean energy. Here in the northeast, Vermont is one of more than a dozen states picking up the ball that Washington has dropped.
The Vermont Legislature's Climate Solutions Caucus is working on a package of bills that will combat climate change while creating jobs and protecting public health. Please join us and Sen. Brian Campion at a public forum this Wednesday, November 13 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Federated Church of East Arlington. With Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, the Climate Solutions Caucus co-chair, we will present these legislative priorities and lead a question-and-answer session.
Rep. Kathleen James, Bennington-4, represents Manchester, Arlington, Sandgate and Sunderland. Rep. David Durfee, Bennington-3, represents Shaftsbury, Sunderland and Glastenbury in the Vermont House of Representatives.
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