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The report said climate change can already be felt across the country, warning that the effects will get worse in coming years without steps to curb global warming.
WASHINGTON — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Wednesday called the federal government’s recent fourth national climate assessment a “scathing indictment” of Trump administration activities.
Prior to Becerra’s comments Wednesday at The Washington Post’s Energy 202 event in D.C., acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler touted a 2.7 percent reduction in carbon emissions in President Trump’s first year in office, saying the administration should get credit for that drop. He also argued the report, which was put together by 13 federal agencies, including the EPA, overlooked private sector climate innovations.
Released the day after Thanksgiving, the report found that, without significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions and regional adaptation efforts, climate change will cause hundreds of billions of dollars in annual losses in some U.S. economic sectors—more than the current gross domestic product of many states. That’s in addition to wide-ranging impacts on people’s quality of life, from increases in waterborne and foodborne diseases, more heat-related deaths and allergic illnesses, and predicted upticks in extreme weather events that damage infrastructure.
California and 16 other states sued the EPA in May over its proposed rollback of future vehicle emissions standards for model years 2022-2025—a move Becerra said was not about opposing the Trump administration.
“We in California can not afford to backslide,” Becerra said. “It would cost our businesses and industries billions of dollars.”
The Ford F-150 truck gets better gas mileage than the Ford Taurus sedan of a few years ago, he added, and the Trump administration’s argument that consumers prefer “dirtier, heavier” vehicles to more fuel-efficient ones doesn’t hold water.
“It goes against their own mandate to continue to use existing science,” Becerra said of the EPA’s proposed rulemaking on fuel economy standards.
Wheeler, however, argued that the emission standards his agency would implement won’t result in significantly more pollution, saying “the difference between our proposal and the Obama administration's proposal is minuscule as far as the CO2 benefits are concerned."
He added that their plan will make vehicles more affordable, so more people will purchase new cars and trucks, resulting in safer roads.
The climate report released last week was followed by another from the United Nations on Tuesday that warned that all countries aren’t doing enough to curb carbon emissions.
But Trump has criticized the federal government’s report focused on effects in this country, saying he “doesn’t believe it.”
Other speakers at the Post’s event talked about ways that companies and government could invest in technologies aimed at reducing emissions.
Converting the energy grid to clean power and transportation to electric will “go a long way to solving much of the greenhouse gas emission problems,” said Anne Pramaggiore, senior executive vice president and CEO of Exelon Utilities.
Electric utilities can play a critical role in those efforts, she added.
Pepco Holdings has worked with ports like the one in Philadelphia to electrify its vehicles, said Melissa Lavinson, the holding company’s senior vice president of governmental and external affairs.
Meanwhile, a carbon dividends plan recently introduced in the U.S. House would ensure all revenues from the tax go back to customers, said Kathleen Barrón, senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs and public policy at Exelon.
“We do expect to see continued action at the state level,” Barrón added, pointing to New Jersey and New York as states that are active on environmental policy.
The Solar Energy Industries Association has pushed back against Trump subsidies for existing energy generators like the coal industry while pressing Congress for an investment tax credit for energy storage to “help modulate the grid,” said Abigail Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The Trump administration should simultaneously invest in new clean energy technologies, Hopper said.
“Let the markets work,” she said. “Let the technologies compete.”
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.
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