Urgency for Limiting CO2 Emissions from Coal-Fired Power Plants… and All Sources

One of the SEA members who gave oral testimony at the EPA listening session spoke forcefully on why carbon emissions must level off and start declining by 2020 if the earth is to avoid catastrophic impacts from global warming exceeding 2 degrees Celsius.   Rich Voget submitted a longer written statement and delivered a two minute oral version at the EPA listening session on November 7, 2013 in Seattle, WA in preparation for their drafting of new national guidelines for existing coal-fired power plants.  [Guidelines for new coal-fired power plants will also be drafted.]

The statement argues powerfully for faster action to limit C02 emissions from the existing power plants (and all other sources).  The following chart is referenced in both the shorter oral testimony  (first below) and the longer written statement (second below):

Voget Chart

Oral Testimony: 

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) ran four computer simulations to determine how much global warming would occur by the year 2100.  Only one of the simulations would restrict warming below the safe limit of 2 degrees Celsius. And for that to be successful, global emissions need to peak by 2020 and then steadily decline through 2070.

Therefore any proposals for new and existing power plants must require declining emissions. To set a one time limit of emissions at 1000 lbs CO2/megawatt hr will stop further declines in power plant emissions. To insure a safe stable climate by 2100, emissions must continue to steadily decline to zero by 2070. Either the fossil fuel industry which has plenty of money will perfect total, not partial, carbon sequestration by that time or they will be shut down for the safety of our society. If you don’t want to set declining emission limits, then set age limits on power plants. Do the math based on the various ages of all the current power plants to determine a retirement age that will keep power plant emissions on a constantly declining pathway. The only exception to retiring a plant would be total carbon sequestration.

You cannot weaken your proposals so that emissions stray from the pathway to a safe stable climate by 2100. We will all be dead by 2100. Do we leave a note to our children and grandchildren that says “ Sorry about that, but the political opposition only let us negotiate these watered down proposals.” The laws of chemistry and physics are non-negotiable.

Please do not steal our children’s future. Be bold with your proposals. Start by 2018 and set power plant emissions limits that steadily decline to zero by 2070.

Written Statement Submitted to EPA:

The Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change ran four computer simulations to determine how much global warming would occur by the year 2100.  The year 2100 is 87 years away, so it is easy to think we have plenty of time to address climate change.   But only one of the simulations would restrict warming below the safe limit of 2 degrees Celsius of warming. And for that to be successful, global emissions need to peak by 2020 and then rapidly decline through 2070. So we only have 7 years until 2020 to implement a successful solution.  If the United States  is to show the world how to reduce annual GHG emissions, we should start well before 2020, so other countries can implement their plans by 2020. With that in mind I would like to reinforce the request made by The Center for Clean Air Policy for the EPA to finalize its rule at the beginning of 2015 rather than June of that year in order to get on the legislative calendar in states with limited sessions so the plans will be approved by state lawmakers.

I applaud the EPA’s proposals for transportation emissions. As more people buy cars that average 54.5 miles per gallon, transportation emissions will steadily decrease as the more fuel efficient cars age and are then sold as used cars to people who can’t afford new cars but are currently driving fuel inefficient cars.  Any proposals for new and existing power plants must also require declining emissions. To set a one time limit of emissions at 1000 lbs CO2/megawatt hr will stop further declines in power plant emissions. To insure a safe stable climate by 2100 power plant emissions must continue to decline. Limits need to steadily decline to zero by 2070. Either the fossil fuel industry which has plenty of money will perfect total, not partial, carbon sequestration by that time or they will be shut down for the safety of our society. If you don’t want to set emission limits, then set age limits on power plants. Do the math based on the various ages of all the current power plants to determine a retirement age that will keep power plant emissions on a constantly declining pathway. The only exception to retiring a plant would be total carbon sequestration. As of today, total carbon sequestration is a nice theory, but has yet to be demonstrated to work.

Fossil fuels need to be categorized as transitional fuels as renewable sources are ramped up. And once renewables are in place, fossil fuel use needs to be terminated.

You are going to face extreme pushback from members of Congress that are funded by the fossil fuel industry. They have already threatened to take away your funding. You cannot compromise your proposals so that emissions do not follow the IPCC pathway to a safe stable climate by 2100. We will all be dead by 2100. Do we leave a note to our children and grandchildren that says “Sorry about that, but we were waiting for a better time politically to introduce our proposals and we missed the 7 year window before climate change became irreversible.”. Sorry about that, but the political opposition only let us negotiate these watered down proposals.” The laws of chemistry and physics are non-negotiable. Running away from tough problems only makes them worse. That’s not how America works. It has been estimated that every year that we delay addressing climate change costs another $500 Billion dollars in adaptation and mitigation.

Global warming is a moral issue.  It is the result of a moral error and calls for a moral response. To take what we want to lead our lifestyle and leave a shambles for our children is not worthy of us a moral beings. And for the fossil fuel industry to take down the entire web of life is moral monstrosity on a cosmic scale.

It has been said by many people that We are all part of “the first generation to see the effects of changing climate. And the last to be able to do something about it,” It is a true rare privilege to be alive at a time when the future of the human race hangs in the balance. Please do not help steal our children’s future. Be bold with your proposals. Start by 2018 and set power plant emissions limits that steadily decline to zero by 2070.

Richard V.

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About SEActivists Admin

manager of SeattleEnvironmentalActivists' blog
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