Myths & Facts: New EPA Regs on CO2 Emissions from Coal Plants

EPA’s new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions will provide legally required protection for the health and welfare of Americans at a cheap cost, while allowing states flexibility — contrary to media fear mongering about the landmark standards. This analysis will cover these issues:
 Are the EPA’s regulations on carbon emissions legal?
How will the regulations impact jobs?
How will the regulations impact electricity rates?
Will they be forced onto states?
Will the regulations be effective in curbing global warming?

[This article, with additional graphics , appeared  at http://mediamatters.org/research/2014/05/30/myths-and-facts-about-epas-carbon-pollution-sta/199516 Media Matters anaylzes media reports on major issues., assessing factuality and falsehood. This analysis is by Denise Robbins of the Media Matters’ Climate and Energy team.. She graduated from Cornell University with degrees in Natural Resource Management and Biometry & Statistics.]

MYTH: The EPA regulations are Unconstitutional

In a Forbes op-ed, Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marlo Lewis derided the EPA’s plan to regulate carbon emissions from stationary sources as “breathtakingly lawless.” [Forbes, 2/25/14]
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly incorrectly suggested that action through the EPA is unprecedented, saying: “It used to be that if you wanted to make a major change or have a major impact on climate change or green energy regulations in this country, you went through Congress” but the president “has found an end-around, and as a result this EPA is extremely powerful right now.” [Fox News, America Live, 3/5/13, via Media Matters]
National Journal touted a white paper from the House Energy and Power Subcommittee which stated: “The way in which EPA has ‘pushed the envelope’ in interpreting its legal authority … portends a similarly aggressive and unlawful approach to the regulation of existing [power plants]” without mentioning the court cases establishing EPA’s authority. [National Journal, 9/16/13]
Wall Street Journal compared Obama’s decision to regulate carbon emissions to that of an “emperor” or “dictator.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/6/13]

FACT: The EPA Is Essentially Required To Regulate Carbon Emissions By Law

Obama Administration To Announce Carbon Pollution Regulations For Existing Sources. President Obama is planning to use executive authority to announce regulations on carbon dioxide emissions existing current power plants under the Clean Air Act, which was passed by Congress in 1963 and has been amended several times, most recently in 1990. A May 29 report in the New York Times stated that the regulations are expected to be proposed on June 2:

President Obama will use his executive authority to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent, according to people familiar with his plans, which will spur the creation of a state cap-and-trade program forcing industry to pay for the carbon pollution it creates.

Mr. Obama will unveil his plans in a new regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency, at the White House on Monday. It would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy.

Cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent — a substantial amount — would be the most important step in the administration’s pledged goal to reduce pollution over the next six years and could eventually shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country. [New York Times, 5/29/14]

The Clean Air Act Identified Six Known Pollutants, But Also Required That EPA Regulate Pollutants That Pose A Danger To Public Health And Welfare. Science magazine reported:

The Clean Air Act named six known pollutants, including lead and soot. But it also set up a process called the “endangerment finding” that EPA would use to decide whether additional pollutants should be regulated under the act or adjust its standards for allowable pollution.

“Congress said to the EPA: We want you to be watching the science. You’re supposed to be on guard. When the science shows there’s a danger, then you need to act. Don’t come to us for instructions,” says David Doniger, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C.

There’s evidence that during the drafting of the act and its subsequent amendments that climate was one of the dangers Congress was thinking about. In 1970, as mentioned here, Senator Caleb Boggs (R-DE) said during debate on the law that “Air pollution alters climate and may produce global changes in temperature.” As laid out here, in 1977 a report by the House that accompanied an update to the law mentioned “possible weather and climate modifications” among the risks to particulate matter it was seeking to regulate. [Sciencemagazine, 2/7/11]

Supreme Court In 2007: “Greenhouse Gases Fit Well Within The Clean Air Act’s Capacious Definition Of ‘Air Pollutant.’”  In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that “greenhouse gases fit well within the Act’s capacious definition of ‘air pollutant’ ” and thus the EPA must determine whether these gases endanger public health and welfare. If such an endangerment finding was made, the EPA would be required to issue regulations:

Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of “air pollutant,” we hold that EPA has the statutory authority to regulate the emission of such gases from new motor vehicles.

If EPA makes a finding of endangerment, the Clean Air Act requires the agency to regulate emissions of the deleterious pollutant from new motor vehicles. Ibid. (stating that “[EPA] shall by regulation prescribe … standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class of new motor vehicles”). EPA no doubt has significant latitude as to the manner, timing, content, and coordination of its regulations with those of other agencies. But once EPA has responded to a petition for rulemaking, its reasons for action or inaction must conform to the authorizing statute. Under the clear terms of the Clean Air Act, EPA can avoid taking further action only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to determine whether they do. Ibid. To the extent that this constrains agency discretion to pursue other priorities of the Administrator or the President, this is the congressional design. [Massachusetts v. EPA, 4/2/07]

Appeals Court In 2012: Greenhouse Gases “Indisputably” An Air Pollutant. In a unanimous 2012 ruling that included a conservative appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, The DC Circuit Court of Appeals further ruled in favor of the EPA’s endangerment finding, determining that greenhouse gases were a threat to public health and welfare. The court stated that the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act to include regulation of greenhouse gases “is unambiguously correct,” and that “[g]reenhouse gases are indisputably an ‘air pollutant’ ”:

Petitioners, various states and industry groups, challenge all these rules, arguing that they are based on improper constructions of the CAA [Clean Air Act] and are otherwise arbitrary and capricious. But for the reasons set forth below, we conclude: 1) the Endangerment Finding and Tailpipe Rule are neither arbitrary nor capricious; 2) EPA’s interpretation of the governing CAA provisions is unambiguously correct; and 3) no petitioner has standing to challenge the Timing and Tailoring Rules. We thus dismiss for lack of jurisdiction all petitions for review of the Timing and Tailoring Rules, and deny the remainder of the petitions.

We begin our analysis, as we must, with the statute’s plain language. CAA Section 169(1) requires PSD permits for stationary sources emitting major amounts of “any air pollutant.” (emphasis added). On its face, “the word ‘any’ has an expansive meaning, that is, ‘one or some indiscriminately of whatever kind.’” Greenhouse gases are indisputably an “air pollutant.” See Massachusetts v. EPA. Congress’s use of the broad, indiscriminate modifier “any” thus strongly suggests that the phrase “any air pollutant” encompasses greenhouse gases. [Coalition for Responsible Regulation, Inc. vs. EPA, 6/26/12]

Bush EPA Administrator: EPA Is “Require[d]” To “Propose A Positive Endangerment Finding” On Greenhouse Gases. According to a letter released in February 2011, Stephen Johnson, EPA Administrator under President George W. Bush, told the president in January 2008 that the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision “combined with the latest science of climate change requires the Agency to propose a positive endangerment finding.” From the letter:

[Y]our Administration is compelled to act on this issue under existing law given the many lawsuits and petitions before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is my intent to do so in a way that is responsible and that does not foreclose a superior legislative solution.

First, the Supreme Court’s Massachusetts v EPA decision still requires a response. That case combined with the latest science of climate change requires the Agency to propose a positive endangerment finding, as was agreed to at the Cabinet-level meeting in November. Some have noted that the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) enables implementation of your 20-in-l0 plan without an endangerment finding. Even if that is true, a finding is still required by the Supreme Court case, and the state of the latest climate change science does not permit a negative finding, nor does it permit a credible finding that we need to wait for more research. EISA also did not change EPA’s obligation regarding the regulation of vehicles although it did expand the Department of Transportation’s authority in a way that will facilitate a joint rulemaking. [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Johnson Letter to President Bush, 1/31/08]

MYTH: EPA Regulations Will Kill Hundreds Of Thousands Of Jobs

Fox News’ Doug McElway touted a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report on Happening Now which claimed that the regulations “will result in an average loss of 224,000 jobs every year and a sustained lower standard of living.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 5/28/14]
Bloomberg News hyped the Chamber’s report, headlining an article: “Chamber Study Predicts Obama Climate Rule Will Kill Jobs.” [Bloomberg, 5/28/14]
Mike Tobin led a segment on Happening Now warning of the impacts of EPA regulations, saying: “Some 6,000 miners here in Kentucky have lost relatively high paying jobs … this is happening particularly as environmental policy targets the coal industry particularly here in Appalachia.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 1/16/14]

FACT: Experts Expect Jobs Created To Balance Out Jobs Lost

Economist Paul Krugman: Even Chamber Of Commerce Report Found “Saving The Planet Would Be Remarkably Cheap.” Nobel Prize-winning economist and Princeton University Professor Paul Krugman explained in a New York Times op-ed that even the Chamber of Commerce’s report found “[s]aving the planet would be remarkably cheap”:

[T]he Chamber of Commerce report considers a carbon-reduction program that’s probably considerably more ambitious than we’re actually going to see, and it concludes that between now and 2030 the program would cost $50.2 billion in constant dollars per year. That’s supposed to sound like a big deal. Instead, if you know anything about the U.S. economy, it sounds like Dr. Evil intoning “one million dollars.” These days, it’s just not a lot of money.

Remember, we have a $17 trillion economy right now, and it’s going to grow over time. So what the Chamber of Commerce is actually saying is that we can take dramatic steps on climate — steps that would transform international negotiations, setting the stage for global action — while reducing our incomes by only one-fifth of 1 percent. That’s cheap!

Alternatively, consider the chamber’s estimate of costs per household: $200 per year. Since the average American household has an income of more than $70,000 a year, and that’s going to rise over time, we’re again looking at costs that amount to no more than a small fraction of 1 percent.

One more useful comparison: The Pentagon has warned that global warming and its consequences pose a significant threat to national security. (Republicans in the House responded with a legislative amendment that would forbid the military from even thinking about the issue.) Currently, we’re spending $600 billion a year on defense. Is it really extravagant to spend another 8 percent of that budget to reduce a serious threat?

Now, we haven’t yet seen the details of the new climate action proposal, and a full analysis — both economic and environmental — will have to wait. We can be reasonably sure, however, that the economic costs of the proposal will be small, because that’s what the research — even research paid for by anti-environmentalists, who clearly wanted to find the opposite — tells us. Saving the planet would be remarkably cheap. [New York Times, 5/30/14]

Krugman: Chamber Report Is Flawed, Serves Special Interests. Economist Paul Krugman also detailed the flawed assumptions of the Chamber of Commerce report in the New York Times op-ed, explaining that the report, for instance, “neglects the dramatic technological progress” in clean energy, and ignores how building new, low-emissions power plants “would, if anything, give the U.S. economy a boost.” He argued that the Chamber is fighting the regulations so fiercely because it is serving “special interests” including the Koch-influenced coal industry:

The real costs would almost surely be smaller [than the Chamber of Commerce estimates], for three reasons.

First, the Chamber of Commerce study assumes that economic growth, and the associated growth in emissions, will be at its historic norm of 2.5 percent a year. But we should expect slower growth in the future as baby boomers retire, making emissions targets easier to hit.

Second, in the chamber’s analysis, the bulk of the reduction in emissions comes from replacing coal with natural gas. This neglects the dramatic technological progress taking place in renewables, especially solar power, which should make cutting back on carbon even easier.

Third, the U.S. economy is still depressed — and in a depressed economy many of the supposed costs of compliance with energy regulations aren’t costs at all. In particular, building new, low-emission power plants would employ both workers and capital that would otherwise be sitting idle, and would, if anything, give the U.S. economy a boost.

You might ask why the Chamber of Commerce is so fiercely opposed to action against global warming, if the cost of action is so small. The answer, of course, is that the chamber is serving special interests, notably the coal industry — what’s good for America isn’t good for the Koch brothers, and vice versa — and also catering to the ever more powerful anti-science sentiments of the Republican Party. [New York Times, 5/30/14]

NRDC: Carbon Standards Could Add More Than 274,000 Jobs. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released an analysis finding that the standards could create more than 274,000 jobs for electricians, carpenters and others and “deliver more than $50 billion in health and environmental benefits.”  From the NRDC press release:

The first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants can save American households and business customers $37.4 billion on their electric bills in 2020 while creating more than 274,000 jobs, a Natural Resources Defense Council analysis shows.

In the study released today, NRDC said the federal carbon pollution standard could fuel a surge in energy efficiency investments, creating new jobs filled by electricians, roofers, carpenters, insulation workers, heating/air conditioning installers and heavy equipment operators, among others.

If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopts a similar approach, the nation would slash carbon pollution by 531 million tons per year, nearly 25 percent by 2020 from 2012 levels (nearly 950 million tons and 35 percent below 2005 levels), helping deliver more than $50 billion in health and environmental benefits, NRDC’s analysis shows. [NRDC, 5/29/14]

NYU Professor: Industry “Just As Likely To Hire More Workers As They Are To Lay Workers Off.”Professor Michael Livermore, from New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity, stated that “most serious economists will argue that our best estimate of the net effect is zero,” because any negative employment effects will be made up for by jobs added in the clean energy economy. From a phone interview with Media Matters:

[M]odels which are more empirically grounded find that when you impose regulatory requirements on firms they’re just as likely to hire more workers as they are to lay workers off — and these are in the most highly regulated industries — because you have to hire workers to comply with environmental statutes. So for example, yes, it might be the case that some coal miners might need to be laid off and need to transition to other forms of employment, but there’s also going to be work building new gas fired power plants and energy efficiency retrofits.

So those two countervailing effects, for the most part, most serious economists will argue that our best estimate of the net effect is zero. That any of the employment effects are going to wash out. Because we don’t know if there’s going to be negative employment effects, but if there are, they’re usually going to be associated with countervailing employment effects that are positive. [Phone conversation, Media Matters, 3/7/14]

Economic Policy Institute: “Fears Of Job Loss Are Overblown.” A report by the Economic Policy Institute, which analyzed regulations from the EPA and other government agencies, found that environmental regulations have “multidimensional” effects on employment butcan create more jobs than they kill:

The direct cost of complying with regulations translates into increased employment. For example, an environmental regulation will mean more jobs for those engaged in pollution abatement. Further, it is possible that regulations may produce more labor-intensive production processes. A true accounting of the direct employment effects of a regulation thus considers both jobs lost and jobs gained.

The direct cost of complying with regulations translates into increased employment. For example, an environmental regulation will mean more jobs for those engaged in pollution abatement. Further, it is possible that regulations may produce more labor-intensive production processes. A true accounting of the direct employment effects of a regulation thus considers both jobs lost and jobs gained.

Regulations can be designed to explicitly benefit the economy and particular industries, and they can lead to investments that create jobs, improve worker health and thus productivity, and spur important technological innovations, among other positive effects. [EPI, 12/4/14]

MYTH: EPA Regulations Will Cost Households Hundreds A Year

Fox News’ Happening Now aired a statement from Karen Harbert, President of the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, where she stated: “In terms of disposable income, over the course of this study 2014 to 2030, the American households will lose $586 billion of disposable income, or at its peak $367 a year, over the aggregate that means for a household losing $3400 of income that they would otherwise be spending on something else.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 5/28/14]
The Daily Caller reported a Chamber of Commerce official saying: “We anticipate it to be unprecedented in complexity and cost.” [Daily Caller, 5/27/14]
A Fox News op-ed touted a Heritage Foundation analysis which found the regulations would “slash the income of a typical family of four more than $1,400 a year, and increase electricity prices at least 20 percent.” [FoxNews.com, 6/25/13]

FACT: Efficiency Improvements Could Save Each Household A Hundred A Year

NRDC: Carbon Standards Could Save The Average Household $103 A Year Through Energy Efficiency.The NRDC’s analysis on the EPA carbon regulations found that energy efficiency savings from the standards could lead to $37.4 billion in total electric bill savings, or an average of $103 per household, per year. From the press release of NRDC’s report:

The first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants can save American households and business customers $37.4 billion on their electric bills in 2020 while creating more than 274,000 jobs, a Natural Resources Defense Council analysis shows.

NRDC’s approach, introduced in December 2012, is largely driven by energy efficiency investments and grants states the flexibility to meet the standards in ways that best meet their individual needs, such as accounting for their differing energy mixes.

The new analysis shows that those investments, while creating 274,000 jobs, can save households and business customers $37.4 billion per year on their electricity bills, for example:

§  Saving U.S. household customers $13 billion per year, or an average of $103 per household, per year.

§  Saving U.S. commercial and industrial customers $24.3 billion per year.

The analysis also highlights similar potential new job creation and electric bill savings in 13 key states: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. [NRDC, 5/29/14]

Clean Air Act Has Already Saved $22 Trillion, Expected To Keep Saving. A cost-benefit analysis from the EPA found that the economic benefits from the Clean Air Act over a 20-year period added up to approximately $22.2 trillion, with only $0.5 trillion in costs, due to reduced illnesses and saved lives, as reported in The Atlantic. The magazine reported that every cost-benefit analysis since has shown that “the benefits outweigh the costs by huge margins” and that billions more will be saved by 2020:

Every study that has examined benefits and costs associated with curtailing sources of air pollution has shown that the benefits outweigh the costs by huge margins. In its second prospective report the EPA makes the following statement:

… the results suggest that it is extremely unlikely that costs of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment programs would exceed their benefits under any reasonable combination of alternative assumptions or methods which could be identified. Even if one were to adopt the extreme assumption that the fine particle and ozone pollution have no effect on premature mortality risk — or that such risk reductions occur but they have no value — the benefits of reduced, non-fatal health effects and improved visibility alone add up to $137 billion for the year 2020, an amount which is more than twice the estimated $65 billion cost to comply with all 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment requirements in that year. [The Atlantic, 9/12/12]

Lobbying Groups Overestimate Compliance Costs. Coal lobbying groups, such as the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), consistently overestimate compliance costs, according to a report from the Center for American Progress. In 1989, EEI released a study estimating that “electricity rates in the lower 48 states would significantly rise” due to the 1990 Clean Air Act. However, the Center for American Progress recently calculated that electricity prices actually decreased by 16 percent.

CAP chart

[Center for American Progress, 3/19/14]

Resources for the Future Analysis: Carbon Standards Will Result In “Positive And Large” Net Benefits.A report published by Resources for the Future (RFF), a nonprofit that conducts independent research on environment and energy issues, surveyed major policy scenarios that are likely to be considered and predicted “positive and large” net benefits in every scenario, stating that “the most inefficient policy outcome … would be no policy”:

This paper surveys the major policy approaches EPA and the states are likely to consider if markets are to be harnessed to achieve a cost-effective outcome.

[I]n every scenario we examined, the net benefits of regulation are positive and large. Moreover, net benefits are similar across the policies because the approaches with greater social cost serendipitously yield greater ancillary reductions in SO2 emissions. The most inefficient policy outcome among those we compared would be no policy; in contrast, regulation under the Clean Air Act appears hugely beneficial. [RFF, January 2014]

MYTH: The EPA Is Forcing Inflexible, Unilateral Programs On Each State

Conservative news site The Daily Caller reported that “The Obama administration will likely use its executive power to unilaterally impose carbon dioxide emissions trading systems,” in an article titled “EPA To Unilaterally Push Cap And Trade On Carbon Emissions,” [Daily Caller, 5/27/14]
A Newsmax.com article stated that the carbon regulations, among other policy changes, will be “done by unilateral administration edicts and not by votes of Congress.” [Newsmax.com, 5/19/14]
The Daily Caller promoted “worries” from energy producers that “the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon dioxide emissions limits are a way for the executive branch to effectively exert unilateral control over U.S. energy policy.” [Daily Caller, 5/13/14]

FACT: The EPA Will Allow Each State To Come Up With Its Own Plan

Rule Will Reportedly Allow States To Submit Individualized Plans To Cut Emissions. The New York Times reported that sources “familiar with the rule” say it will allow for flexibility from each state to make its own plan:

People familiar with the rule say that it will set a national limit on carbon pollution from coal plants, but that it will allow each state to come up with its own plan to cut emissions based on a menu of options that include adding wind and solar power, energy-efficiency technology and creating or joining state cap-and-trade programs. Cap-and-trade programs are effectively carbon taxes that place a limit on carbon pollution and create markets for buying and selling government-issued pollution permits. [New York Times, 5/29/14]

EPA Working With State Partners, And Will Only Implement Federal Standards If State Does Not Submit A Plan. The EPA’s reported plan to work with “state partners” is a key part of the carbon pollution standards, requiring states to submit individual implementation plans. The Natural Resources Defense Council detailed how a federal standard will only be implemented if a state does not submit its own plan:

The federally-proposed standards will provide states with emissions reductions targets. Until we see the proposal, we won’t know the exact targets, but we know they should be based on what can be achieved through the “best system of emission reductions.” The targets could take the form of a limit on the number of tons of carbon dioxide that polluters are allowed to emit, they could take the form of an emissions rate - how many pounds of carbon are allowed to be emitted per megawatt-hour of electricity the power plants produce, or they could take some other form.

Whatever targets the federal standard sets, states will have the opportunity to decide how they want to meet those standards. When the state determines what specific compliance tools it wants to use, and develops a plan showing how using that combination of tools will result in emissions reductions equivalent to what the federal standard requires, it submits its plan to the EPA for approval. [NRDC’s Switchboard, 5/1/14]

Polls Show A Majority Of American Voters Back EPA Carbon Pollution Regulations. According to an October 2013 poll from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), 74 percent of voters in swing states support the upcoming carbon regulations. As reported in Cleantechnica:

74% of voters [in 11 states considered to be in play for 2014 Senate elections] support EPA’s proposals to limit power plant emissions. That support cuts across states Barack Obama (73%) and Mitt Romney (73%) as well as party identification for Democrats (92%), independents (72%), and Republicans (58%). “The anti-environmental message is a losing argument with the American people,” blogged Gene Karpinski, LCV President.

The LCV poll derived these findings from telephone interviews on October 9-13 with 1,113 likely voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia.

It’s also probably not surprising to learn the public wants EPA to regulate emissions, not Congress. At the height of the government shutdown, voters preferred EPA regulation to Congressional action by a 5-to-1 margin, 66% to 12%[.]

LCV poll[Cleantechnica, 10/30/13]

Further, the Yale Project on Climate Communications conducted a national survey in April 2014 and found that a majority of voters across party lines — 68 percent — support “the principle of regulating [carbon dioxide] as a pollutant”:

A national opinion survey we conducted in April of this year finds that - by nearly a two to one margin - Americans support setting strict limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired plants, even if the cost of electricity to consumers and companies increases.

Americans as a whole (68%) and across party lines, however, support the principle of regulating CO2 as a pollutant, with the most support from Democrats (80%), followed by Independents (60%), and Republicans (54%). Fewer than half in any party oppose such regulation. [Yale Project on Climate Communication, April 2014]

MYTH: The Regulations Will Not Be Effective In Combating Global Climate Change

The Cato Institute’s Paul Knappenberger argued that carbon regulations in the U.S. will be ineffective because any and all domestic actions to rein in global warming “will pale in comparison to the rapid expansion of carbon dioxide emissions in other parts of the world.” [The Cato Institute, 12/3/12]
During an episode of NPR’s OnPoint, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marlo Lewis claimed that the carbon regulations will be useless because “United States could eliminate all of our emissions tomorrow … that would reduce global warming two-tenths of a degree Celsius by the year 2100.” [NPR, On Point, 5/20/14]
Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson declared that “we have no solution” to climate disruption in an op-ed arguing against climate policies in the U.S., because global emissions will continue to increase regardless. [Washington Post, 5/11/14]
Bloomberg View contributor Megan McArdle posited that there is “likely nothing” we can to do “actually reduc[e] greenhouse-gas emissions,” in an op-ed dismissing the value of U.S. actions on climate change. [Bloomberg View, 5/20/14]

FACT: Carbon Regulations Are Significant Policy Change That Can Spur International Action

NY Times: Experts Say U.S. Policy Could “Stimulate Policy Changes” In Other Countries. The New York Times reported that governments around the world are closely following the upcoming regulations on carbon emissions, and that a Chinese policy expert stated that the it “will have an impact” on China’s climate policies:

China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies and greenhouse gas polluters, are locked in a stalemate over global warming. While today China pollutes more than the United States, Chinese officials insist that, as a developing economy, China should not be forced to take carbon-cutting actions. China has demanded that the United States, as the world’s historically largest polluter, go first. Chinese policy experts say that Mr. Obama’s regulation could end that standoff.

“If the standard is really stringent, that will make a difference in the domestic debate in China,” Mr. Qi [Ye, director of the Climate Policy Center at Tsinghua University] said.

Mr. Qi said that while he did not expect the Chinese government to publicly comment on the E.P.A. rule, a strong regulation — like one that led to a 20 percent cut in coal plant pollution — could stimulate policy changes. “It will have an impact,” he said.

But as Mr. Obama moves ahead using his existing authority under the Clean Air Act, governments around the world have taken notice — and tried to learn everything they can about the law.

“We’re very excited to see the new rule on existing power plants. We see this as absolutely the backbone of U.S. climate strategy,” said Günter Hörmandinger, environmental counselor to the European Union delegation in Washington. The European Union, which enacted a carbon-cutting policy after the Kyoto Protocol, has been among the critics of the United States’ climate change policy.

“Once it’s out, I will be rushing to understand it and report back to Brussels,” said Mr. Hörmandinger, an Austrian who has spent the past four years studying the Clean Air Act.

“Everyone knows that the U.S. is key to achieve any solution to the climate change crisis,” wrote Wael Hmaidan, director of a Lebanon-based advocacy group, Climate Action Network. “Many OPEC countries, who do not want to see the world wean itself from fossil fuels, realize this.” [New York Times, 5/27/14]

Economist Paul Krugman: U.S. Policy Is “A Necessary First Step Toward A Broader International Agreement.” Nobel Prize-winning economist and Princeton University Professor Paul Krugman further argued in a New York Times blog that in addition to potentially spurring independent action from other countries, having a carbon policy in place would help the U.S. to secure an international agreement:

What about the argument that unilateral U.S. action won’t work, because China is the real problem? It’s true that we’re no longer No. 1 in greenhouse gases — but we’re still a strong No. 2. Furthermore, U.S. action on climate is a necessary first step toward a broader international agreement, which will surely include sanctions on countries that don’t participate. [New York Times, 5/11/14]

Top Economists: U.S.“Must Put A Price On Carbon” To Combat Climate Change. A 2009 survey of top U.S. economists from New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity found that the vast majority of economists agree that “any effort to combat climate change must put a price on carbon,” as the EPA regulations would essentially do. Mothers Jones detailed the results of the survey:

1. Climate change “poses significant risks” to important sectors of the economy. Less than six percent of economists disagreed with that statement. It’s hard to imagine a more conclusive result.

2. Emissions should cost something. The economists agreed that any effort to combat climate change must put a price on carbon—sending a strong signal that efforts like Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-Va.) bill that simply funds new nuclear plants would be ineffective. Ninety-eight percent of the economists surveyed think that putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions would “increase incentives for energy efficiency and the development of lower-carbon energy production.”

3. The US needs to take action right away, regardless of what other countries do.  The brief notes that “many leading US decisionmakers, especially top Republicans, have suggested the US should not take any decisive actions on climate change until all other countries are committed to similar action.” But only one respondent believed the US should wait until “every country commits to reducing emissions.” [Mother Jones, 12/7/09]

U.S. Is The Second Largest Emitter Of Carbon Dioxide. The U.S. only trails China in carbon dioxide emissions and emits more per person than China, according to 2009-2013 data from the World Bank. This chart of 2008 data by the Environmental Protection Agency shows total carbon emissions by country and region:

Universal: 

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