President Donald Trump is poised to unleash a sweeping anti-climate executive order to repeal major regulations enacted by the Obama administration, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
"The directive will instruct members of the Cabinet to rewrite regulation restricting carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants, lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing, and revise the way climate change is factored into federal decision-making—all key elements of the Obama administration's effort to address climate change," the Post writes.
The Post reports that the administration is under pressure to release the order soon, as a lawsuit challenging Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon emissions limits is currently pending. The suit was launched by conservative attorneys general—including now-EPA chief Scott Pruitt, although he's no longer a plaintiff. The EPA rule was intended to cut emissions by a third by 2030.
"Just as there is no escaping gravity when one steps off a cliff, there is no escaping the warming that follows when we add extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere."
—Climate scientists in a letter to EPA head Scott PruittAnd climate change action is needed more urgently than ever, as measurements from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing at a record-breaking pace. Carbon dioxide levels now rest at 405 parts per million (ppm). The latest measurements fulfill scientists' prediction last year that atmospheric levels of CO2 would soon permanently exceed the symbolic threshold of 400ppm.
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The rapid rise in carbon levels is already transforming the planet. In various studies published only this week, scientists discovered that the Amazon rainforest is facing a "death spiral of drought and deforestation;" the Great Barrier Reef is suffering its second major bleaching event in two years; massive swaths of Australia's mangrove forests have "died of thirst;" and shrinking water levels mean the Middle East may not be habitable by humans in only a few decades.
Meanwhile, a climate-linked late-season blizzard is barrelling up the East Coast of the U.S. while polar heat waves see global sea ice melt to its lowest levels in millenia. And new research shows that even if countries adhere to international climate commitments, the Arctic may soon be entirely ice-free in the summers.
Humans are to blame for the rapidly changing planet, as 30 prominent climate scientists reminded Pruitt this week in response to his public denial of the fact that rising CO2 levels are linked to climate change.
In the letter sent Monday, the scientists wrote: "Just as there is no escaping gravity when one steps off a cliff, there is no escaping the warming that follows when we add extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere."