Joe Lieberman: Obama Had to Act on Climate

Tuesday, 03 Jun 2014 11:07 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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President Barack Obama should be applauded for his plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but politics will prevent the new standards from making any significant impact, according to former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University.

The men co-authored an article published in Politico.

Obama this week announced his proposal to use the executive power to cut carbon emissions by an average of 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Environmentalists lauded the president’s efforts, while those aligned with the gas and oil industry characterized it as a "war on coal," The New York Times reported.

If executed as proposed, the president’s climate change initiative – to be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency – could reverse the United States’ longstanding policy of sitting on the sidelines, Lieberman and Profeta wrote.

Following the 1997 Kyoto Protocol – an international treaty mandating industrialized countries reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions – the U.S. Senate voted to disavow the document. As global warming and its effects have garnered increasing attention over the years, bipartisan support has slowly begun to amass for legislation.

Still, Lieberman and Profeta don’t see a major change of course in the near future.

"There is no reason for optimism that any time soon there will be enough votes in Congress to adopt comprehensive legislation that will stem the tide of harmful climate change," they wrote.

"Congress’s continuing failure to even begin to deal with the challenge of climate change has left President Obama and the EPA with no choice but to use their legal powers to try avert a climate catastrophe. It would be irresponsible not to do so."

Over time, they wrote, the reality of climate change, and the havoc wreaked by greenhouse gas emissions, will force Congress’s hand.

"The EPA regulations cannot solve the issue on their own. The agency’s actions, however, can stimulate the innovation in the states necessary to design smart approaches to reduce pollution that can be translated across the country. And if those programs succeed, they may also help us build political consensus to act, because their example will show that we do not have to choose between addressing climate change and growing the economy."

Obama’s proposal calls for states to play a leading role in cutting carbon emissions, allowing for a cap-and-trade market, and encouraging states to develop ways to reduce  reliance on coal.

For the time being, according to Lieberman and Profeta, "this week’s actions by President Obama and the EPA are the best we can do to address the problem in the politics of today."

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