Obama: US climate efforts can withstand 'near-term politics'

Obama acts to curb Trump's EPA agenda
Obama acts to curb Trump's EPA agenda

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Obama acts to curb Trump's EPA agenda 02:19

Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama argued Monday the election of Donald Trump and a GOP Congress will not stop US efforts to fight climate change and spur clean energy development.

The essay published online Monday in the journal Science goes through the scientific case for actions the administration has taken on climate change, energy efficiency and emissions, and Obama makes several pointed references to the possible impacts of "near-term politics" on his agenda and the planet as a whole.
"Left unchecked, the continued growth of (greenhouse gas) emissions could cause global average temperatures to increase by another 4°C or more by 2100 and by 1.5 to 2 times as much in many midcontinent and far northern locations," Obama wrote. "Although our understanding of the impacts of climate change is increasingly and disturbingly clear, there is still debate about the proper course for U.S. policy -- a debate that is very much on display during the current presidential transition.
"But putting near-term politics aside, the mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow," he wrote.
"We have long known, on the basis of a massive scientific record, that the urgency of acting to mitigate climate change is real and cannot be ignored," he wrote, adding that "the trend toward a cleaner power sector can be sustained regardless of near-term federal policies."
This is the third policy-specific article Obama has published in a prestigious journal over the past week. Obama published an essay on criminal justice reform in the Harvard Law Review and discussed his namesake health care bill in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In the time after Trump's victory, the White House has acted to ban offshore drilling in areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans indefinitely and established two new national monuments in the West.

Future of coal

The President also discussed the continued struggles of the coal industry, but pointed to the market forces of cheap natural gas rather than regulations from his Environmental Protection Agency meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Trump and Republicans have consistently attacked Obama's EPA regulations and the President-elect, in particular, has promised to bring back coal-related jobs
But the market, Obama said, means coal likely won't be coming back all the way.
"Because the cost of new electricity generation using natural gas is projected to remain low relative to coal, it is unlikely that utilities will change course and choose to build coal-fired power plants, which would be more expensive than natural gas plants, regardless of any near-term changes in federal policy," Obama wrote.

Forget Paris?

The President also urges Trump to keep the US as part of the historic Paris Agreement aimed to curb global warming, saying that at the very least involvement is necessary to protect US economic interests.
"Were the United States to step away from Paris, it would lose its seat at the table to hold other countries to their commitments, demand transparency, and encourage ambition," Obama wrote. "This does not mean the next administration needs to follow identical domestic policies to my administration's. There are multiple paths and mechanisms by which this country can achieve -- efficiently and economically -- the targets we embraced in the Paris Agreement."
"Regardless of U.S domestic policies, it would undermine our economic interests to walk away from the opportunity to hold countries representing two-thirds of global emissions -- including China, India, Mexico, European Union members, and others -- accountable.
In addition to pledging to curb Obama-era environmental regulations, Trump has previously questioned the science showing man-made greenhouse gas emissions causing increases in global temperatures and associated impacts such as rising sea levels. He previously called climate change a "hoax" perpetrated by the Chinese and his choice to lead the EPA, Scott Pruitt, participated in lawsuits challenging Obama's clean power plant rules and other regulations.
"Nobody really knows" if climate change is real, Trump said in a "Fox News Sunday" interview last month. "I'm still open-minded. Nobody really knows. Look, I'm somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It's not something that's so hard and fast."