The Common Good

As the World Turns, Congress Stands Still on Climate

Forget about future generations – climate change is already hitting poor people around the world, not to mention contributing to natural disasters in the U.S. from New York City to Arizona. Apparently that’s not enough for some members of Congress, who have chosen to use their authority to try to block any and all attempts to do something about the problem.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced a major, comprehensive plan of action on climate change – changes that would do much to protect human health, the poor, and future generations by mitigating some of the worst impacts of climate change. A central part of the plan is to address climate pollution at its largest source: coal-fired power plants.

Unfortunately, many members of Congress are already taking steps to decry the president’s plan as a “war” – on coal, on American energy, and yes, even on America itself. Leaders from John Boehner to Michele Bachmann to Joe Manchin have made it pretty clear that they view attempts to care for creation as an assault on our country.

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson is already promising to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from carrying out President Obama’s plan. Rep. Simpson is the chair of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which will soon begin work on a funding bill for the EPA.

Power plants are responsible for about one-third of the carbon pollution the United States produces, and we know that that pollution is hazardous to human health. The Supreme Court ruled last year that the EPA is actually required under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions, and President Obama is now just doing his job.

By opposing the EPA’s carbon pollution rules, these members of Congress have fallen into an old line of thinking that we hear all too often – that regulations will destroy industry and hurt the economy. As President Obama pointed out, though, this belies a lack of faith in industry’s ability to adapt to changes.

Power plants will adapt to the new regulations in the same way they have adapted to regulations in the past. If a few months’ worth of adjustment is worth more than the lives of those who are affected by climate change, we have a serious moral problem on our hands.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new power plant rules aren’t just required under the Clean Air Act – they’re also in line with the biblical mandate to care for creation and the most vulnerable. Hopefully, with enough pressure from people of faith and concerned citizens across the country, these leaders will realize that their inflammatory rhetoric only serves to turn up the heat on our planet and our political discourse.

Janelle Tupper is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.

Image: Oil refinery emissions, David Sprott / Shutterstock.com

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