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Last week, the Trump administration offered up its revision to former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the keystone of U.S. climate policy. To many observers, the proposal seemed more like a coal bailout than a realistic plan for the United States to join the community of nations in combatting what is, arguably, an existential threat to the planet.
I won’t go into the details. Far wonkier analysts and activists have done a fine job of that. (Also, here’s EPA’s official summary [PDF].) Suffice to say that the Obama plan aimed to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector by 32 percent (compared to 2005 levels) by 2030. The Trump plan would reduce those emissions a measly 0.7 to 1.5 percent during that same time frame. In a word: Impotent.
An equally troubling aspect of the plan jumped off the page: By allowing states to set their own rules for regulating power plants — or request permission to opt out altogether — the EPA estimates (PDF) the Trump plan will lead to as many as 1,400 additional premature deaths a year from increased emissions of the fine particulate matter produced by coal burning, which are linked to heart and lung disease, plus as many as 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis and tens of thousands of missed school days.
An earlier EPA analysis of the Obama plan concluded that it would prevent between 1,500 and 3,600 premature deaths a year by 2030 and reduce the number of school days missed by 180,000 annually.
We in sustainability often have hand-wringing conversations about how to make the climate crisis relatable to the average citizen. So, why isn’t it being better portrayed as worsening the health of us and our families?