President Obama's new war
AFTER withdrawing US troops from Iraq in 2012 and planning to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year, President Barack Obama declared a new war, not against any enemy country, but against carbon emission within his own country. He claimed that fighting climate change was every bit as important to America's national security as stopping terrorism or stopping countries from obtaining nuclear weapons.
He proposed cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from power plants by an average 30% from 2005 level by the year 2030. In 2012, the United States produced 5.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide against China's 9.9 billion tonnes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic GHG in the US.
Obama's declaration is supported by Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. He said: "We are strongly supportive of these ambitious yet attainable standards." Unlike in other US sponsored wars, Obama is likely to get universal support for his current war even though he has foes within his own country. In Georgia, one Public Service Commissioner said: "The Obama administration continues its war on coal with the issuance of carbon dioxide rules for existing coal plants."
Obama's decision is in sharp contrast with the policy of his predecessor. Even though some states, like Connecticut, California and Arizona, took steps to limit carbon emissions, President Bush was least concerned about global warming. In March 2001, he decided not to implement the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997 requiring nations to reduce GHG emissions on apprehension of economic setbacks in the States, then the largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world.
Climate change is already being felt in every region of the US, resulting in hotter summers, shorter winters, extreme precipitation, and even worsening allergies, according to a government report released recently. The report further forecasts grim scenarios for different regions. The Northeast and Midwest, for instance, would see many more heavy downpours that could lead to flooding and erosion. The Southwest, including California, would be more prone to extreme heat, drought and wildfire, while the Northwest could see a widespread tree die-off because of wildfire, insect outbreaks and disease.
Though the declaration came a little late, it will have a far reaching impact in combating climate change as the US will now be better placed to enforce global carbon reductions. No matter what the antagonists may say at home, Obama's war is not against coal. It is a crusade for the survival of the human race.
The writer is a former chief engineer of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission.