Have you cared about the climate since before it was hot? Do you enjoy watching poor-quality live streaming video? Do you appreciate platitudes about how we must act to save our children?
If you answered yes to all three of those questions, then you were the target audience for President Obama’s climate change speech Tuesday.
For those who don’t enjoy suffering through buffering, we have assembled here the highlights of the president’s climate plan.
Congress isn’t going to play along, obviously, so Obama’s plan consists of executive actions his administration can take on its own. Even some of these could be blocked by Congress through budgetary moves, and others could be blocked by courts. But he’s at least going to give them a try.
The big takeaway: Obama will crack down on coal-fired power plants, not just new ones but existing ones as well. Finally, the long-awaited “war on coal”! We’ll have to wait a while to find out how aggressively it’ll be waged — the EPA needs to actually write its regulations. Still, this is big news for climate hawks, the critical regulatory step we’ve been waiting for. (One sign that it matters: Coal stocks plummeted on Monday.)
The plan’s three main goals:
- Cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions
- Prepare the U.S. for the climate change that’s already happening
- Lead international climate efforts
The goals within goals:
1. Cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions
- Clamp down on CO2 emissions from power plants.
- Spread renewables far and wide — utility-scale projects on public lands, solar on public housing, renewable projects on military bases, renewable electricity powering federal facilities.
- Make lots of things more energy efficient – appliances, big vehicles, federal buildings, multifamily housing, mortgages.
- Promote development of cleaner technologies — biofuels, advanced batteries, fuel cells, “advanced fossil energy projects” (scare quotes mine).
- Upgrade the power grid.
- Cut emissions of non-carbon greenhouse gases, like HFCs and methane.
- Protect and restore forests, which sequester carbon.
2. Prepare the U.S. for the climate change that’s already here or already unavoidable
- Help communities make their infrastructure and buildings more resilient.
- Help create “sustainable and resilient hospitals” that can deal with climate-related health problems and meet needs during disasters.
- Help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought and long-term climate shifts.
- Plan to manage drought, wildfire, and floods.
3. Lead international efforts to fight and prepare for climate change
- Work via the U.N. treaty process.
- Pursue bilateral initiatives with China, India, and other big emitters.
- Push to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
- Stop funding new coal plants overseas, and help other countries switch to anything but coal, even if that means natural gas or nuclear power.
Here’s what you won’t find in the plan: The word “Keystone”; that decision is still months away. Anything about curbing the U.S. oil drilling boom; it will keep booming. Anything about curbing the U.S. natural-gas fracking boom; expect that to keep booming too.
Even before Obama’s climate plan was out, congressional Republicans were bashing it. Expect a lot more bashing in the days, months, and years to come.
UPDATE: Obama actually did mention Keystone in his climate speech. Read about it.