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American Power Act Fails to Reduce Emissions Enough to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change

Analysis by Center for Biological Diversity

WASHINGTON - June 22 - As the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history devastates the Gulf of Mexico, clarifying the urgent need for bold, effective climate legislation, a new Center for Biological Diversity analysis of the American Power Act demonstrates the bill’s gross inadequacies.

As the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history devastates the Gulf of Mexico, clarifying the urgent need for bold, effective climate legislation, a new Center for Biological Diversity analysis of the American Power Act demonstrates the bill’s gross inadequacies. The Center’s analysis shows that the domestic greenhouse gas emissions allowed under the bill could lead to global greenhouse gas concentrations of 650 parts per million (ppm). At these concentrations, global mean temperatures would almost certainly rise 2°C (3.6°F) over preindustrial levels. There is also an 80-percent chance that the increase would exceed 3°C (5.4°F), and a 40-percent chance that the increase would exceed 4°C (7.2°F), according to leading scientists. Even a 2°C increase could cause the displacement of millions due to sea-level rise, irreversible loss of entire ecosystems, and the triggering of multiple climactic “tipping points” that would result in additional, accelerated warming.

“The decisions we make today will determine the health and livability of the planet for generations to come,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center. “Policymakers need to acknowledge the great danger from proposals like the American Power Act, which simply do not provide the pollution reductions that scientists warn are needed to tackle this crisis. The hard truth is that the bill would leave our children and grandchildren to deal with what can only be called climate catastrophe.”

To limit future warming to 2°C, developed countries like the United States must make firm commitments to reduce their emissions by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels within the next decade. Even assuming successful implementation of the bill’s programs — an unlikely scenario given its many loopholes — the Act would likely reduce emissions by less than 1 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

The Act would also offer a smorgasbord of subsidies, regulatory streamlining provisions, and other incentives for expanded offshore oil exploration, nuclear power, and continued reliance on coal-fired electricity generation.

Making matters worse, the climate bill also devastates proven, effective programs under the federal Clean Air Act that could be used to achieve the immediate and long-lasting emissions reductions that are needed. It removes EPA’s ability to set a national pollutant cap for greenhouse gases, permanently removes the agency’s ability to set greenhouse standards for major polluters like oil refineries and cement plants, and prohibits the regulation of important greenhouse gases like methane from sources such as coal mines until at least 2020.

“Passing a climate bill with inadequate greenhouse gas reduction goals is bad enough, but adding subsidies for offshore oil drilling and other fossil fuels to the mix while gutting successful existing laws that can get the job done is downright crazy,” said Snape.

The Center’s longer analysis of the American Power Act is available here.

The Center’s short summary of key provisions of the bill is available here.

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