Delaying its CO2 caps would be 'catastrophic' − White House

29 July 2014 19:09 Source:ICIS News

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The White House warned on Tuesday that any delay in implementing the administration’s efforts to reduce US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will undermine the nation’s economy and cause “climate catastrophes”.

A study issued by the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) cautioned that if steps to limit US emissions of CO2 are delayed, it could cost the nation 0.9% of annual gross domestic product (GDP) or $150bn year after year.

If a delay in implementing carbon controls were allowed, the study contends, a global increase in Earth’s temperature could be as high as 3 degrees Celsius instead of a more manageable 2 degrees Celsius increase.

“The incremental cost of an additional degree of warming beyond 3 degrees Celsius would be even greater,” the CEA study says.

“Moreover, these costs are not one-time but are rather incurred year after year because of the permanent damage caused by increased climate change resulting from the delay,” the study said.

Arguing that the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is settled, CEA said that failure to act now to curb CO2 emissions “could pose such severe economic consequences as reasonably might be thought of as climate catastrophes”.

The White House study was issued on the same day that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began a two-day series of public hearings in four US cities to take comment on the agency’s proposed plans to force reductions in CO2 emissions by existing electric power plants across the country.

EPA announced its plans to restrict CO2 emissions by existing power plants in early June, and the proposal drew heavy fire from industry and business, the coal sector and many in Congress.

The coal industry and others warn that the EPA emissions limits, if implemented, would force the shutdown of virtually all coal-fired US electric power generation, which accounts for around 40% of the nation’s electric base, causing broad harm to the economy.

The US House of Representatives is expected to issue a subpoena soon to force the agency to disclose its scientific grounds for issuing the proposed CO2 limits.

The US Supreme Court recently ruled that EPA had overstepped its authority in seeking to cap industrial carbon emissions, holding that the agency must limit its rulemaking to a more narrow part of the Clean Air Act. But that ruling was not expected to roll back the agency's bid to force CO2 reductions by power plants.

EPA’s proposed emissions limits for existing power plants are open to public comment for 120 days, ending in late September, and are likely to be made final by June next year, according to the agency.

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By Joe Kamalick