This post is reproduced from the Climate Reality Project. I’m a Climate Leader (Chicago2013). The article highlights President Obama’s top five climate accomplishments. Some, including myself, will argue that he could have and should have done a lot more. Nevertheless, he will be remembered as the Climate President. (Rolly Montpellier, Editor for BoomerWarrior).
President Obama has been serious about fighting climate change since he took office. While there’s undoubtedly more progress he’d like to see before the end of his term, he’s done more to address climate change than any US president before him.
Since President Obama took office, the US has made major strides in fighting climate change. Here are five ways.
Why Obama is the Climate President
Over the last eight years, the US has had its fair share of ups and downs in fighting climate change. But despite setbacks like the Senate’s failure to take up the American Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009 – which promised to introduce a nationwide emissions trading program to cut carbon pollution – there’s been a whole lot of progress too. And not all of it has appeared on the public’s radar.
Under President Obama’s watch, the US has expanded clean energy technologies, regulated carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time, and passed major initiatives to improve energy efficiency – not to mention played a large part in the most ambitious international climate agreement to date, the Paris Agreement. But it doesn’t stop there. Let’s take a closer look at the steps the Obama Administration has made to accelerate clean energy in the US and fight climate change.
Clean Power Plan
In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. The EPA projected the plan would bring many, many benefits for Americans, including creating tens of thousands of jobs, saving US citizens as much as $155 billion in energy costs between 2020—2030, and helping prevent some 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.
The benefits didn’t end at our borders, either, as the plan showed the rest of the world we were serious about reducing emissions, leading to a landmark climate deal with China in 2015 that helped energize international climate talks that led to the historic Paris Agreement last year. The plan also was a cornerstone of the US commitment to reduce overall emissions 26—28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 in the agreement.
However, in February of this year, the US Supreme Court issued a judicial stay on the Clean Power Plan after 27 states’ attorneys general sued the EPA to block implementation. This means that implementation of the Clean Power Plan is on pause until the court decides when the case should continue. While this is a setback, we believe that the court will ultimately uphold the legality of the plan.
Learn more about the Clean Power Plan by downloading our Clean Power Plan Activist Kit.
Coal Leasing Moratorium
Between 2009 and 2014, companies mined enough coal on public lands to put more than 3.9 billion metric tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent emissions of over 825 million cars on the road – every year.
In January, though, the climate community had a major win when the Department of the Interior put a temporary freeze on leasing our public lands for coal mining. This moratorium is a big deal because when coal is burned for energy, it creates more carbon dioxide per unit than any other fossil fuel.
The bottom line is when we lease our federal lands for coal, we’re helping fuel climate change. Right now, the Department of the Interior is collecting comments on the moratorium, giving Americans the chance to weigh in on how we power our nation – and protect our planet. You can help. Take action against coal mining on public lands today and submit a comment to the Department of the Interior.
New Fuel Economy Standards
One of the more important moves by the Obama Administration that’s gone under the radar in some ways has been to significantly push fuel economy standards for the vehicles filling our roads and highways – and sending carbon pollution into the atmosphere. In 2011, the White House proposed new fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles, requiring an average performance equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The administration also finalized new fuel economy standards for commercial trucks, vans, and buses, which are projected to save over 500 million barrels of oil and save American drivers an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs.
These new standards are the most ambitious any US president has implemented, and will save consumers money at the pump, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce US demand for oil.
The Obama Administration has focused on increasing energy efficiency not only to protect our environment, but also save Americans money and create jobs. One of the major ways the White House is accomplishing this is through the Better Buildings Challenge, a US Department of Energy initiative focused on making homes, commercials buildings, and industrial plants more energy efficient.
The Better Buildings Challenge is projected to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020 through investments in upgrading offices, universities, hospitals, and other commercial buildings. It’s also projected to save companies and business owners about $40 billion per year on energy bills, which can be used to hire more workers and benefit companies in other ways.
Cutting Methane Emissions
This May, the EPA announced final regulations to curb harmful methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas facilities. These first-ever federal methane pollution standards are a big part of how the US will reach its goal of cutting this pollution by 40–45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.
While there’s less methane than CO2 in the atmosphere, it’s much more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat – 84 times more potent over 20 years, in fact. Which means it can still do a lot of harm to our climate. These new rules will help rein in the millions of tons of methane the oil and gas industry is leaking into the air, and is a big climate win for the Obama Administration – and all of us.
Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Activist and a blogger. He’s a member of 350.Org (Ottawa), Climate Reality Canada and Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa). Rolly has been published widely in both print and online publications. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest.
Another environmentalist who has sold his soul to the democrats, just in time to help Hilary who lied about the XL Pipeline and sold fracking to the world. These are very moderate changes put forth very late in Obama’s 8 years.
The democrats led a massive expansion of nuclear energy and opened up off shore drilling three times. Corn Ethanol and “clean coal” continue their renaissance. DeChristopher, a whistle blower for an illegal sale of public lands to the fossil fuel industry, has been prosecuted and sentenced to two years by the Obama DOJ while everyone else who planned and executed the illegal action gets a pass. Also getting free passes was BP for the eleven who died at BPs Horizon and Massey Coal after 29 coal miners died because hundreds of safety violations were overlooked. Despite some small renewable energy investments such as a solar light for a bus station in Georgia, most of our tax money still goes to fossil fuels rather than renewable energy. About 45% of the “environmental stimulus” went to tax breaks. This comes at a time when failure to adopt as other countries have already started to do – some for decades now – will have severe consequences due to both climate change and passing Peak Oil. (2)
The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, -which Obama completely controls – has weakened more than 80% of the rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. This is worse than eight years of the Bush administration.(3)
Karl Moore points out,
Of all the environmental disaster we face, the biggest may be Obama’s appointment of Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior. He voted against increased fuel efficiency standards for the U.S. automobile fleet – voted to end protection for offshore oil drilling off of Florida’s coast – voted to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to ignore global warming impacts in their water development projects – voted against the repeal of tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil – voted to support subsidies to ranchers and other users of public forest and range lands – threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when its scientists determined the black-tailed prairie dog may be endangered – fought efforts to increase protection for endangered species and the environment in the Farm Bill, and is ending wolf protection in Wyoming.
Karl Moore also said,
When it comes to bioenergy, the stances of President Obama and Governor Romney are virtually the same. Both candidates have come together on an aggressively pro-biomass and biofuels platform that ignores the resulting increase in lung disease from particulate matter emissions, the contribution to runaway climate change, the watershed degradation, the forest destruction, and the disproportionate negative impacts on low income Americans and communities of color…This President’s ABYSMAL record on environmental protections and consumer protections far exceeds that of ANY past President in my lifetime.
Even when the EPA proposed minor actions to limit blowing up mountains and other environmental disasters, they all become effective in the distant future when they can be cancelled. The Tar Sands pipeline and delay of smog regulations recommended by Obama’s own EPA stand out. Ignoring his own EPA recommendations on smog will cost – again according to his own EPA – 7,200 deaths 11,000 emergency room visits and 38,000 acute cases of asthma each year. See references 22, 23, 25, 35, 44, 45. And yet Obama prosecutes environmental whistleblowers more than any other Presidential Administration in the history of our Republic. (see reference 369) Contrast the drastic action and cost of 3,000 deaths one time in the terrorist attack in 2001 with the lack of any action for 7,200 yearly deaths. See also references 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 11, 14, 16, 17, 22, 23, 25, 29, 31, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 48, 50, 52, 53, 54, 55, 57, 58, 60, 63, 65, 115, 123, 162, 166, 261, 290, 303, 323, 355, 369, 390, 406, 412, 427, 457, 478, 485, 507, 516, 521, 584, 603, 618, 679, 683, 713, 720, 906, 908, 926, 928, 931, 933, 935, 945, 964, 965, 975, 976, 1054, 1137, 1159, 1220, 1303, 1371, 1401, 1531, 1552-1567, 1664-1670, 1707-1714, 1737, 1739-1744, 2038-2042, 2307-2324, 2626-2635, 2702 of this article: http://www.newprogs.org/the_environment_under_the_democratic_republican_uniparty
Ed – thank you for this detailed counter-view of the Obama record on climate change. As the article points out, perhaps rather weakly, Obama “could and should have done more”. I’ve read your article – The Democratic Party is the More Effective of Two Evils – on your website. http://www.newprogs.org/the_democratic_party_is_the_more_effective_of_two_evils
So what is the solution to this massive under performance of our governments on climate change? Is humanity just doomed to suffer the consequences as they arise? Is it already too late as Guy McPherson of “Nature Bats Last” claims? What Next?
There hasn’t been a Climate President yet, not in any country. But I understand the label if I think of it in average terms within the mindset of the developed world, then yes, he is the Climate Prez. But in reality for what ‘s needed for even a small chance of surviving this thing? There is no Climate “Anything” yet.
Danny – As I point out in another response, governments are massively under performing on climate change. And Ed Griffith’s response presents a long list of failures/inadequacies of the current President on climate action. That said, Obama has shown global leadership and worked with China and others to set the stage for the Paris Agreement, the first agreement of its kind. And of course the fact that the Paris Agreement is woefully inadequate is another story.
“So what is the solution to this massive under performance of our governments on climate change?” I am not a genius and do not have any easy answers, but the democrats never suffer any penalty for being luke warm to neutral on climate change and so they have no incentive to change. We just do not have decades to start acting forcefully.
President Obama did the climate change movement few favours. As if we didn’t have enough opposition from the highly funded denial campaign, Obama’s most egregious misdeed was when he called the heads of several American environmental NGOs to a meeting at which he asked them to stop talking about climate change. Pardon me?
Anyway, no sense crying over spilled milk. But we MUST get on with sounding the alarm on the climate change emergency — and taking emergency action.
Frankly I never agreed with the “go-softly strategy” – talking about clean energy and transition away from fossil fuels – rather than calling it what it is, climate change. Even the term climate change is somewhat of a euphemism. What we’re really talking about is GLOBAL WARMING. Sure the climate is changing but many argue that it’s always changing, always has, always will. The planet is warming up at an alarming rate and soon we will have drifted into a climate emergency and scrambling for solutions. And yes “But we MUST get on with sounding the alarm on the climate change emergency — and taking emergency action.”
Thank you for your comments.
Yeah I know Rolly, I’m just bitching. It’s like I said, if you look at this in the context of present thinking,then Obama shines, and I shouldn’t knock that cuz for modern times he’s been a very good president. But the average mindset of modern times is whacked. We think our idea of endless growth is a great thing. Think of that, endless growth. Ain’t that crazy?
I think we are coming around a bit, if these temps keep rising we’ll come around alright. When we have come around, we will find that presidents don’t matter much in the effort to thwart climate change. Instead we’ll find it was “us”, the people, who had to do the job.
We’re on the same page.
Humanity has not changed much in the last thousand years. We will muddle through each crisis as it comes. Except that the climate crisis is an existential one not just for our species but for all life on earth.
We must indeed give President Obama some credit for doing at least ‘something’ toward a goal to cut greenhouse emissions. That it is not good enough is a moot point really….no one is doing near enough. And those of us that care ( which is not a large percentage of the global population) can become easily disillusioned when any hard action we take toward trying to solve the problem rather than be part of the problem, is crushed with sneers and jibes toward ‘The Environmentalists,’ as though we are something to be controlled like vermin.
One of the biggest hurdles is to be taken seriously….and that is not happening! Indeed, I was shocked to learn that the UK’s new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has just announced up to £10,000 pounds be given to households that will be affected by new Fracking operations incorporated across Great Britain. This is nothing short of a ‘bribe’ to silence the mounting opposition to Fracking.
The problem is further compounded by political agendas that have little to do with environmental protection and cleaner living, and everything to do with countries engaging in mutual back scratching to keep everyone ‘sweet.’ Everyone is looking to open up trading channels, reduce protection laws that impede such trade, and make enough GDP to keep the economy moving on up! Something is going to break….and it is going to make a very big impact when it does. It’s just a matter of which country/continent is going to annihilate itself first! Then, just maybe the rest will do something to save our one and only biosphere!
“I was shocked to learn that the UK’s new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has just announced up to £10,000 pounds be given to households that will be affected by new Fracking operations incorporated across Great Britain. This is nothing short of a ‘bribe’ to silence the mounting opposition to Fracking.”
Even worse, her first action taken less than 24 hours of becoming Prime Minister was to demote the department for environmental action from cabinet level. She has also written to Argentina and urged a beginning of oil drilling near the Falkland Islands. And yet the media is in love with her and all a flutter because she is a women Prime Minister.
As with Obama, there is no consequence for actions. It may already be too late to protect future generations from the worst affects of climate change. One thing is for sure. Climate change is weather and physics. Mealy mouthed rhetoric will have no effect and giving politicians a continuous series of passes because the opposition seems worse will have no effect.
Ed, I didn’t know about Theresa May starting the oil drilling in the Falklands. Dreadful thing. However, I have visited the Falklands twice and on the first visit over 10 years ago, I learned that the Falklands war was more of a political distraction (The Argies wanting their ‘Malvina’s’ back and Maggie Thatcher wanting to keep that strategic territory) rather than what it was really about (The discovery of oil deposits). At that time, I met a Canadian man who asked me not to divulge (because it was a secret) that his oil exploration team had just found a large deposit of oil! He became frantic and ran away when I asked if I could take his photograph.
There is a world of business and politics that is largely kept from public scrutiny. The general public rarely know more than a quarter of what really goes on. We are only fed the PR spin that the world power mongers want us to know. This is largely why Donald Trump is seen as a volatile threat. Not only are his policies destructive, he is not seen by his own Republican Party or the US military as a ‘safe’ and compliant political leader that can be manipulated in the usual manner.
I see that you (Ed) represent the New Progressive Alliance Party…an offshoot leftwing group that has formed the idea of combinined efforts of Greens, the Scottish National Party, and Plaid Cymru parties in the UK and possibly including Jeremy Corbin of the Labour party (should he survive the leadership vote)!
I guess the idea is to combine forces to overwhelm the Conservative Party!
I have to say at this point that I do not have really political bones in my body. If I had to choose a system that I think would work to give humanity a fighting chance, I’d choose a combination of Brian May’s ‘Common Decency’ idea for political reform
And, James Grayson’s circular economy ideas for a complete overhaul of how we do business!
My problem with politics are the individuals who power the parties! I really like the kindness, philanthropy, common sense, fairness, and environmentally friendly politics of former Housewife, and current MP for Brighton, Caroline Lucas (Green Party), but I loathe (literally), the lip service, brashness, holier-than-thou attitude of the Green Party leader, Natalie Benn, an Australian who’s resume reads of looking for power positions throughout her non-impressive career path.
This sort of personality clashing can be seen in every party, world wide. And I could go on at length about how destructive it is, but I’m sure I don’t need to do so…most people will understand the message of how individuals make or break the Party!
British politics has spawned some wonderful, intelligent politicians. Though few, their local constituents love them, and would vote for them no matter what party they represented.
What we need in our society, is a social transparency that is honest and fair in its governance of resources that we all use. It is not going to happen in the form of left wing communism (where the leaders dictate the lives of many), or in the right-wing capitalism (where the leaders dictate the lives of many). I think that we are not served by any current notion of politics. In a sense, the current political systems we are using are causing the sort of inward looking power struggles and in-fighting, that we see in the war conflicts we see across the globe. Essentially, humans have lost the ability to do much more than protect their own arse holes and bare their teeth at anything they don’t agree with. Our communities inhabitants are no better than starving wild dogs fighting for scraps!
Further to my previous comment Ed, (awaiting moderation as I write this comment). I mentioned that you were affiliated with the New Progressive Alliance assuming it was the UK version, not realising that the US, Canada and far flung places use this name for a political movement (not necessarily with the same goals). Sorry for my misinterpretation. Perhaps you can enlighten Boomer Warrior readers with a description of the New Progressive Alliance that you refer to in your handle.
I still stand by my other beliefs that a Common Decency form of government aligned with a Circle Economy is my favoured reform to get our world back on track.