For years, maybe decades, Republicans have told us repeatedly that nothing our country does will have any impact whatsoever on global climate change because: China. In other words, because China would never agree to take action, we should sit on our hands and do nothing, as well, allowing expanding carbon emissions to heat up the planet.
This week, all of that changed. In a stunning development, the Obama administration worked out a joint agreement with China to reduce carbon emissions. The agreement sets the stage for further international agreements when global leaders meet in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference next year.
Here is the essence of their agreement:
Today, the Presidents of the United States and China announced their respective post-2020 actions on climate change, recognizing that these actions are part of the longer range effort to transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the global temperature goal of 2°C. The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%. China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early and intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030. Both sides intend to continue to work to increase ambition over time.
How big a deal is this? It’s hard to put into words. So let’s show it graphically. The group Climate Interactive analyzed the impacts of the agreement and found that, if other countries follow the lead of our two countries, 640 billion tons of CO2 will be kept out of the atmosphere. They present their findings in this chart:
Chart via Climate Interactive
Republicans are none to pleased about this, as you might imagine. Here’s what economist Robert Reich had to say about that on his Facebook page:
No sooner had Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping this morning announced a historic agreement to reduce carbon emissions in both countries than Mitch McConnell and John Boehner slammed the deal. “Our economy can’t take the President’s ideological War on Coal,” says McConnell, of Kentucky. John Boehner calls the deal “another example of the President’s job-crushing policies.” In reality, it’s a major breakthrough because (1) the U.S. and China are responsible for 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and this is the first time China has agreed to a reduction, and (2) the agreement is essential to convince developing nations whose emissions are rising to reverse course and start limiting them.
The fact that the two Republicans who will be leading Congress starting in January are so eager to block this deal is further proof, as if we needed it, that they are bent on taking America backward. What do you think?
Michigan’s own Fred Upton, who has veered toward the extreme right on this issue in recent years as Chair of the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee, immediately attacked President Obama and this historic agreement:
A landmark climate change deal between the U.S. and China is a bad deal for America and Michigan, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton charged Wednesday.
The St. Joseph Republican, who chairs the House Energy & Commerce Committee, released a statement stating “America’s pain is truly China’s gain.
“If the President has his way, communities in Michigan and across the country will continue to be at a disadvantage for many years to come. The Chinese are promising to double their emissions while the administration is skirting Congress to impose drastic new regulations inhibiting our own growth and competitiveness.”
President Barack Obama and Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the deal Wednesday at the Asia Pacific Economic Conference in Beijing.
Upton said the timing couldn’t be worse.
“Michigan is at long last on the right track with a resurgence in manufacturing job creation, rising home values, and affordable energy prices,” he said in the news release. “Our families and employers have come too far to turn back the clock on our recovery. Our top priority must be jobs and the economy – plain and simple.”
For Upton and his ilk, this huge achievement by President Obama is something to be derided and attacked rather than heralded for the important milestone that it represents. Climate change denier James Inhofe was adamant that he would stop at nothing to derail it saying, “I will do everything in my power to rein in and shed light on the EPA’s unchecked regulations”
The Obama administration is wisely brushing this dirt off their shoulder and moving forward with their leadership role on reversing human-caused climate change:
“It would be nice if we had some help and support from the Congress,” said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity in discussing strategy. “But we think we have the ability under laws that have already been passed by Congress – principally the Clean Air Act, but other laws as well – to get these reductions with authorities we already have.”
Republicans have now lost their main talking point and rallying cry — “BECAUSE CHINA!!! — and they know it. It’s going to be very hard for them to defend being on the wrong side of history when it comes to leadership on climate change and, if they take steps to prevent our country from playing this crucial leadership role, they will pay the price politically. They will be seen as nothing more than obstructionists who will do anything to thwart President Obama, even if it means harming the planet and leaving a damaged planet for our kids (and their kids and their kids and their kids.)
The showdown sets the tone for the next two years and, if it’s an indication of things to come, Barack Obama has no intention of phoning it in for the remainder of his presidency like his predecessor George W. Bush did.
[Photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]