Climate Change
June 30, 2014
Will the administration’s new initiatives be effective?

Increasingly dire scientific warnings about climate change are propelling international and U.S. panels to recommend heightened, immediate action to reduce manmade causes of greenhouse gas emissions. But the possibility of a unified global approach to climate change appears less likely as leaders continue to debate potential solutions, the reliability of warnings and regional fiscal and social responsibility. The Obama administration is making headway, however, on its climate change agenda despite industry and Republican opposition. Recent court rulings bolster President Obama’s efforts, although he still must deal with the possibility of a Republican majority in both houses of Congress next January and sway public opinion regarding the nation’s energy and environmental priorities. Progress on that front, and on a potential bilateral agreement with China on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and hazardous pollutants, could help lay groundwork for international treaty negotiations scheduled for 2015.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy signs

            a proposed regulation on June 2, 2014, aimed at reducing carbon emissions from existing

            power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels. (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Andrew

            Harrer)  Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy signs a proposed regulation on June 2, 2014, aimed at reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels. (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer)

U .S. and international efforts to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are proving insufficient. Scientists say rapidly escalating carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution is raising average global surface temperatures and creating erratic climate and severe weather conditions affecting human health, agriculture, species survival and more. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that increased health costs alone — due to malnutrition and the increased spread of some diseases common to warmer climates — will range from $2 billion to $4 billion a year by 2030.1

Industrialized nations have been negotiating since the 1990s on a pledge to reduce GHG emissions. Yet little progress on the agreement has been made since targets were set under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an addendum to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Nearly 200 countries — not including the United States — ratified the protocol, which set binding limits on GHG emissions.

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