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Federal action on greenhouse gases

One of the lily-of-the-valley’s other common names, “May bells” points to its usual flowering time; its little white blossoms, though, show much earlier these days, in late March and, profusely, by mid-April.
Meteorologist Paul Douglas, in the Huffington Post recently, warned about what he sees happening in the planet’s weather and natural systems. It concerns what “my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud,” he states, namely, that “climate change is real.”
Although a (self-described) fiscally conservative Republican and small-government fan, he finds disconcerting the “almost foreign” looking weather maps he now studies.
In March alone 17,360 warm-weather records were set, with some locales being 20 to 35 degrees warmer than average. Among the earth patient’s mounting fever symptoms are “violent tornado sneezes, severe sniffles of flooding and raging rashes of jaw-dropping warmth.”
If these happen so broadly in March, Douglas asks, what will July bring?
It comes as a relief, therefore, a gift to Americans and their communities, that the Obama administration is taking action to limit the pollutants causing the disease. The first-ever, draft standards to reduce carbon emissions were released by the Environmental Protection Agency on March 27.
Earlier efforts toward this, by both the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control, had been squashed by the Bush White House. A cap-and-trade approach to reduce the greenhouse gases, espoused by John McCain, had been foiled by his GOP colleagues in the U.S. Senate.
Following a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 that these gases should be treated as pollutants under the nation’s clean-air law, some northeastern states had sued the government to have the law’s protections be put into effect and appropriate, national standards developed.
This the Agency has now done with a “Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants.” It holds future power plants’ emissions to no more than 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity produced; currently operating plants or those already licensed and under construction are exempted.
As the EPA rightly affirms in the proposal, the scientific evidence of climate change is overwhelming and its consequences, if not contained, are serious. More weather-related deaths and a rise in infectious diseases and respiratory illnesses, more losses in the services we need from functioning ecosystems and water resources, more erosion and inundation of coastal lands and their private and public assets — against these and other, costly climate-change consequences the new standard puts up a first wall of containment and protection.
It is a small but important step forward. It comes at low cost to the energy sector, despite industry outcry against any carbon regulation. Indeed, as the daily e-letter of the North American Generation Market notes on April 3, the proposed rule “won’t have much impact on the nation’s generation mix.”
Still, one surmises, the EPA’s successful finalization of this draft rule will need supportive input from the public.