Two year ago, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulators decreed they would no longer rigidly enforce emissions standards for cars and trucks, arguing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan timeline is not appropriate and standards are “too high.”
While the nation presently tries to cope with the suffering, grief, and confusion the coronavirus is causing, the Trump administration is taking advantage of our distraction to ramp-up this assault on the environment.
On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the EPA unveiled their new rule requiring automakers increase their new vehicle fleets’ average fuel economy by 1.5 percent every year through their 2026 model year lineups to arrive at a 40-mile-per-gallon average.
Contrast this with the Obama administration, which compelled automakers to increase their fleets’ average fuel economy by 5 percent, setting a goal of 54 miles per gallon in 2026-model year vehicles.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) cites EPA data when it argues the Obama rules have cut half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and saved drivers $86 billion in fuel costs.
The new Trump rule, however, is expected to pump into the atmosphere a billion metric tons more carbon dioxide.
“In general, the E.P.A. does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the E.P.A. agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the E.P.A. upon request.”
Professor at the University of California in Los Angeles, Ann Carlson, explained:
“You can make cars with zero emissions now, zero greenhouse gases that don’t run on petroleum, any more. So I think the big beneficiaries are absolutely the oil companies.”
Paul Billings, American Lung Association senior vice-president of advocacy, said:
“This will mean there will be more pollution associated with oil extraction, transport, refining–sort of all the way from the well to the pump. This will mean high levels of smog, more coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, asthma attacks, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) exacerbations and also more particulate pollution.”
Not only are we relaxing fuel efficiency standards at a time we need the most stringent, Kentucky, South Dakota, and West Virginia has recently passed laws prohibiting fossil fuel protests.
Greenpeace USA researcher, Connor Gibson, explained how the federal government and Republican-led states are using the COVID-19 emergency to quietly slip through oligarchic legislation, stating:
“While we are all paying attention to COVID-19 and the congressional stimulus packages, state legislatures are quietly passing fossil-fuel-backed anti-protest laws. These laws do nothing new to protect communities. Instead they seek to crack down on the sort of nonviolent civil disobedience that has shaped much of our nation’s greatest political and social victories.”
We no longer need vehicles that run on fossil fuels.
We have the technology to completely eliminate fossil fuels from the equation.
What we lack is political will.
In her book This Changes Everything, author and activist Naomi Klein argues the reason the United States fails to adequately address climate change is because of the obscene amounts of money fossil fuel companies pump into lawmakers’ (mostly Republican) campaigns.
In November, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Donald Trump sent a letter to the United Nations initiating the Paris Climate Accord withdrawal process, set to be completed November 4–one day after the 2020 presidential election.
“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency. The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
In order to avoid the catastrophic fallout the climate emergency forebodes, scientists urge ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction, and slashing meat consumption.
To avoid crossing an irreparable tipping point, scientists suggest humanity take the following actions:
- Use energy more efficiently and institute robust carbon taxes to slash fossil fuel use;
- Stabilize the global population, ballooning by 200,000 people per day, through ethical approaches such as better education for girls;
- Cease nature’s destruction, restore forests and mangroves to absorb CO2;
- Adopt plant-based diets and reduce food waste;
- Shift economic goals away from gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
Scientists aver this “transformative change“, with social and economic justice for all promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual.”
This comes at a time the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has reached its highest level in a decade.
Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an alarming report stating the world has 12 years–now ten–to halt coal consumption and slash carbon dioxide emissions to prevent the atmosphere from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
Even a half-degree increase puts us on track to experience more hurricanes like Michael, coastline inundation, floods, wildfires, drought, food shortages, mass human and animal migrations, and ecocide.
International borders, economies, food and water supplies, health, education, transportation, energy sources, are all predicted to change with the climate as the planet warms faster than scientists predicted.
Another casualty on the list: democracy.
In what is being labeled “climate apartheid,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, warns climate change’s impacts are likely to undermine democracy and the rule of law in addition to basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions.
Ecocide is already underway and putting society at extreme risk, according to a recent 1,800-page United Nations (UN) global assessment Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IBPES) report more than 450 scientists and diplomats took over three years to compile from 15,000 academic studies and reports.
According to Michael Mann, esteemed Pennsylvania State University professor and director of the Earth Science Systems Science Center, the IPCC’s assessment is actually conservative, underestimating the amount of warming that has already occurred.
We actually have less carbon left to burn if we wish to avoid the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold the IPCC report cites.
We have already passed too many tipping points to avoid some of the climate’s most devastating effects, and many scientists theorize the world has begun a sixth mass extinction.
Yet there is still hope as long as we heed the experts’ advice.
The question is, will we?
Or will we continue doubling down on a smash-and-grab strategy to extract every drop of fossil fuels the planet can yield for pure profit?
Image credit: en.wikipedia.org