Lucas Niewenhuis EPA Carbon Rule Testimony
Comments on the Clean Power Plan
EPA Headquarters, July 30, 2014
As a young person in America today, I realize that I am lucky to live in a country generally free from choking smog in our cities, toxic sludge in our rivers, and acid in our rain.
Those were, for the most part, the environmental problems of the 20th century. They’ve been kept that way, made a thing of the past, because of wildly successful and efficient policies from the EPA.
Unfortunately, these problems continue in some ways. For example, emissions from coal-fired power plants in eastern Michigan—where I’m from—cost communities millions every year in harm to public health.
And even more unfortunate, climate change has emerged as the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st century, and so far not much has been done to address it. Just as smog, toxic waste and acid rain plagued us in the 20th century, 21st century climate change promises new threats to our health and our economy. Here are just a few examples.
The deadliest heat waves in world history have occurred in the last 15 years, coinciding with the 10 warmest years on record. The 2003 European and 2010 Russian heat waves have combined death tolls of over 100,000 people. It is only a matter of time before a similar heat wave hits the United States – in my lifetime we will suffer through this, likely as a result of astronomical carbon pollution.
Some of the deepest droughts in US history have also occurred in the last 15 years. California is currently in its third year of record-breaking drought, straining groundwater resources – resources once thought of as abundant. Climate change would ensure that droughts like these become the new normal throughout the United States and the world.
More heat, drought, wildfires, and floods could combine to wreck havoc on our food supply and food prices, and in turn, the world economy.
These and other concerns convince me that strong, global action is needed on climate change. But global agreement to action has been hard to come by, to say the least.
The reality is that every nation in the world—by necessity—looks up to the United States as a leader, and if the United States is not leading then they will not follow.
We have to ask ourselves:
If action on climate change doesn’t start here in the United States, then where will it start? Will we allow foreign nations to take environmental leadership in the 21st century? I think that would be a shame.
And if action on climate change doesn’t start now in 2014, then when will it start? Will we wait for more of the deadliest heat waves in world history? Will we wait until a near-permanent drought grips half the nation? Will we wait for more record-setting super-storms and wildfires to drown and scorch our land?
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s too late. We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels unabated. Abatement needs to start now, and here in the United States.
With the Clean Power Plan, the United States will take a step in the right direction. As a citizen, I approve of the message it sends to the rest of the world: the United States is finally ready to take action on climate change.
With continued action in the future, we will be able to carry our environmental leadership from the 20th century into the 21st. I hope that the EPA strengthens this plan to make our power as clean and healthy as possible, and continues its work with more climate action in the near future.