6 things to keep in mind when looking at the Clean Power Plan and prospects of real leadership from the White House at COP21
1) There is, there has always been, and there will always be a huge gap between what the science requires and what the state can deliver when it comes to climate change. The climate isn’t going to wait for the US progressive movement to get its shit together. Yet so many greens in this country act like this is the case. As has been said before, Nature doesn’t do bailouts.
2) The 2007 IPCC report representing scientific consensus on climate change prescribed that emissions must peak in 2015 (this year) and decline dramatically thereafter in order to avoid catastrophic climate change (above around 2.4 degrees C, which is still a death sentence for many island nations). These estimates were conservative and more recent research has shown things are moving much more quickly than the IPCC had previously predicted. Nor have emissions peaked. They've increased. This is in spite of the 15% reduction in emissions from US power plants that has already happened, amounting to just under half of the goal set out in the CPP. We ARE headed for runaway climate change at this point, it’s pretty much inevitable. 2009 was really the last chance for a climate deal that could make a difference.
3) Even if the CPP is really really great, it’s the sort of thing that should have been done ages ago, at the beginning of the Obama presidency, around the time that he flew into Denmark bedecked with a Nobel Prize to tell everyone that the US wasn’t going to pay to clean up its mess. At that time, Obama planned to use carbon markets (which have never worked) instead of actual emissions cuts to tackle climate change. The bill for the trading system was defeated in congress and the European carbon market crashed a couple of years later.
4) A huge boom of natural gas pipelines, fossil fuel export facilities, and a decision to allow drilling for oil in the Atlantic are all still expected to go ahead. You can still see oil operations in North Dakota from space. Keystone XL may have been stalled, but the industry has gotten around all that by transporting oil by rail and through the use of other, smaller pipelines for the last few years.
5) Rather than looking to progressive nonprofits, many of which are heavily dependent on funders with strong ties to the Democratic party, for analysis on the CPP, we need to look to people in the frontlines, specifically those living in the gasfields. And the spinelessness of organizations that are supposed to be cognizant of where we are on climate change right now shows that money has corrupted the process at more than just the electoral level.
6) Any plan that carries the vocal support of large corporations like Staples and Nestle probably isn't going to be a force to be reckoned with. These corporations are happy because the CPP draws attention away from their destructive business models and allows them to keep on polluting and destroying ecosystems.