The new climate change policy released by the Obama administration on Wednesday has elicited displeasure among Republicans and raised concerns for some Democrats.
The new policy on climate change outlined by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is designed to streamline every federal cost benefit analysis by government agencies with environmental concerns in view. The new policy comes into line with “President Obama’s unprecedented steps to address climate change,” which now serves as a “final guidance for Federal agencies on how to consider the impacts of their actions on climate change in their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews,” the CEQ said in a statement on the White House official website.
“Following years of engagement and after receiving public comments and other feedback from members of Congress, State agencies, tribes, corporations, trade associations, and other stakeholders, the final guidance is another big step in the Administration’s effort to consider how all types of federal actions will impact climate change and identify opportunities to build climate resilience.”
Preceded by drafts released in 2010 and 2014 that garnered hundreds of comments from environmentalists, the new climate change policy covers “all kinds of actions, ranging from granting a permit to drill on public lands to building a new road or bridge,” The Washington Post noted.
“From the public standpoint, we are now going to know what all of our decisions add up to in terms of impacting climate change,” Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the Council on Environmental Quality, told The Washington Post. “You can think of all the different federal decisions, and how they all add up. We have numbers where we can actually say, ‘this is a huge decision, given the amount of greenhouse gases coming out of it.'”
While early responses were greeted positively by agencies and individuals, it turned out to be otherwise for both the Democrat and Republican camps.
Wearied by the prospect of the new policy’s eventual disintegration in the hands of individual federal agencies once Obama is no longer in the office, some Democrats are raising concerns.
Representing Democrats, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island looked back to how he “called for using the social cost of carbon during NEPA review to measure the damage greenhouse gas emissions will cause for future generations. Unfortunately, the CEQ left whether to use this powerful tool up to agency discretion,” as quoted by Christian Science Monitor. Also a climate activist himself, the senator could not help but add, “That’s a missed opportunity.”
For their part, Republicans are bent to question the legality of the new climate change policy. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is also the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, pointed out, as reported by Christian Science Monitor, that “global climate change falls outside of the scope of NEPA, so the guidance has no legal basis,” arguing further that Goldfuss, CEQ’s acting head, is yet to be confirmed by the senate.
Whether the future of Obama administration’s new climate change policy will be sustained by the next administration will largely depend on either Hilary Clinton’s or Donald Trump’s take on this issue.
Trump, according to Victor Lipman of Forbes magazine, has expressed his plan to renegotiate the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which the Republican presidential candidate believes to go against the United States’ interest.
Hinting at Trump’s environmental policies was his interview with MSNBC last September, where he was quoted to say in answer to a question about his view on climate change:
“I consider it to be not a big problem at all. I think it’s weather. I think it’s weather changes. It could be some man-made something, but, you know, if you look at China, they’re doing nothing about it. Other countries, they’re doing nothing about it.”
Clinton takes a different route on the issue, which as Lipman recalled from the Democrat nominee’s statement at a town hall meeting in June hints at her all out support to President Obama’s new climate change policy,
“I am really tired of the debate, which is a phony debate. Climate change is real. It is here. It has to be dealt with. If I hear another politician or public official say they don’t know what to say because they’re not a scientist, I’m just going to yell – go talk to a scientist! Go listen to a scientist. Go learn about what is actually happening to our climate.”
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.]