Tackling Climate Change in the U.S

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Early in the Obama administration, CAFE was selected as the primary means of limiting mobile source carbon emissions.

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Rules finalized in October put in place binding standards through Model Year and offered estimated standards through Before leaving office in January , the Obama administration issued a final determination making its previous estimates binding, provoking angry criticisms from automakers who felt that the review process leading up to the termination had been rushed and had arrived at an unrealistic conclusion about what was really feasible.

The Trump administration vowed to reverse the determination and ultimately did so in April , immediately provoking lawsuits by a coalition of blue state attorneys general. An attempt to defuse litigation through negotiations with the California Air Resources Board recently failed. Because auto manufacturers need considerable lead time to be able to make decisions about the compositions of their fleets, it seems hard to imagine that they could end up being held to the standards dictated by the outgoing Obama administration after a years-long interregnum of legal uncertainty.


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Suppose that the Trump standards survive legal scrutiny but a Democrat becomes president in Pivoting once again toward more stringent carbon emission standards for cars is likely to take at least a year, likely more. It is worth briefly noting other mobile source rules in play.

In , the Obama administration put carbon emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks in place through model year Although former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated a willingness to reconsider those rules, they are still currently in place. Given the terms of the Clean Air Act, that means the agency is obligated to regulate those emissions.

However, no action was taken by the end of the Obama administration, and none has yet been taken by the Trump administration. It was proposed in and finalized in October Although the administration made major changes to the rule in an attempt to ensure that courts would view it favorably, it always rested on an awkward legal foundation.

That was because the Clean Air Act regulates each source of emissions individually, but the Clean Power Plan essentially sought to regulate the power sector as a coherent whole, all but requiring that fossil-fuel-fired plants subsidize renewable energy.

In an extraordinary action taken just before the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in February , a majority of the Supreme Court issued a stay on the Clean Power Plan effective until all legal challenges to it were completely exhausted. The election returns in November ensured that it would not be resuscitated immediately. And, indeed, the Trump administration proposed a rescission of the rule in October and proposed a replacement , dubbed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, in August At present, neither of these rules have been finalized; both are certain to face legal challenges.

That leaves the old Clean Power Plan in a state of legal limbo, clearly inactive but not yet technically off the books.

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But does such an objective make any sense in , three years after the original stay was issued? The final Clean Power Plan was to impose its first binding emissions limits as of January 1, , which may seem to give time to see it reinvigorated by a Democratic president in Just as importantly, as in the case of CAFE standards, long lead times are necessary for compliance, making it unlikely that any plant could be put on a compliance schedule as short as a year.

One might plausibly imagine a modified Clean Power Plan with a later starting date, but, once again, because particular standards for particular dates are the very essence of the rule, such a shift would entail an entirely new rulemaking effort. Rules for existing power plants are not the only stationary source rule at issue.

Rules for oil refiners are also required by the Clean Air Act, but the Obama administration never got any in place. Other potential areas for regulation include cement production and the agricultural sector. While the legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan were frozen much like the rule itself, other legal developments have been progressing, with the potential to reshape the whole regulatory landscape for climate change issues.

Mahan also hosts a number of exciting experiential learning opportunities, such as the Classroom in the Wild. The program is a week-long film and photography course that gives students a chance to practice their skills in the field in a natural location. They also run the Eco-Comedy Film Competition, which challenges entrants from elementary school to post-college to engage with an environmental challenge in a humorous short film. Previous years' Grand Prize videos have explored the plastic bag taxes, ocean litter, pollution, and more.

This year's topic? Climate change. The science on climate change is settled, but harnessing the will and resources to slow it, or even turn the tide, is much murkier. CEF's faculty, students and partners are using media, scholarship, and communications expertise to showcase solutions and engage audiences to propel meaningful change.

Where does US climate policy stand in 12222?

Skip to main content. Factories, power plants and cars produce most of the NOx in the U. Ozone is well known to cause serious respiratory illness and is especially dangerous for children, seniors, and people suffering from asthma. Researchers have long known that temperature and ozone are linked — the hotter the temperature, the higher the ozone levels. However, researchers have also established that if the temperatures rise above the mids Fahrenheit, this relationship can break down. So, the question is: how will rising global temperatures impact the severity and frequency of days with dangerously high levels of ground ozone, known as ozone episodes?

Mickley and her team are unraveling the complex relationship between ozone and rising temperatures in the U. In , graduate student Lu Shen and Mickley found that if local and global emissions continue unchecked and temperatures rise as projected, the U. The Northeast, California and parts of the Southwest, would be most affected, experiencing up to nine additional days per year of unhealthy ozone levels in the next 50 years.

The rest of the country could experience up to three additional days of unhealthy ozone.

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What does that mean for health in the U. Hospital admissions and emergency department visits would increase, cases of chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic bronchitis, would increase, and more people could die from respiratory illness. Between and , ozone levels decreased significantly, especially on the east coast, thanks to the Clean Air Act and its amendments, which targeted ozone precursors.

Mickley and her team are also developing tools to predict when and where Americans are most at risk for increased levels of ozone in the short-term. The researchers found that high levels of summertime ozone in the Eastern U. The team used this relationship to predict average summertime ozone levels one season in advance. Such protocols could include advisories for people to stay indoors. As temperatures increase and more water vapor evaporates into the atmosphere, storms will become more frequent and more intense — especially in the Midwest.

Flooding and damage associated with these storms is a threat to the lives and livelihood of the 60 million people living in the Midwestern states, especially farmers who rely on predictable rainfall patterns. But the intensity of these storms, combined with factors unique to the Great Plains region, may also damage the protective ozone layer that shields life on Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

James G. Anderson, the Philip S. In , his team discovered that during intense summer storms over the Midwest, water vapor from these storms is injected deep into the stratosphere.


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By studying ozone loss over the Arctic in winter, Anderson and his collaborators established that combinations of both temperature and water vapor convert stable forms of chlorine and bromine into free radicals capable of transforming ozone molecules into oxygen, implicating storm-injected water vapor in the loss of ozone over the U. These reactions, depending on the temperature of the stratosphere, could trigger a to percent decrease in ozone in the lower stratosphere one week after a storm.

This corresponds to a 2- to 3-percent decrease in stratospheric ozone in the region of enhanced water vapor. Since ultraviolet radiation also impairs the molecular chemistry of photosynthesis, such a change could also have a major effect on agriculture in the Midwest.

Tackling climate change: Where do we begin? - UpFront

Anderson and his lab are developing new platforms to observe this phenomena in action. Central to that effort is a research platform called the StratoCruiser, a super-pressure balloon designed to collect data at an average of 75, feet — well into the stratosphere. Powered by an array of solar cells, the StratoCruiser will fly above the central U. Anderson and his team are developing sensing instruments sturdy enough to withstand winds and rain from intense convective storms yet lightweight enough to allow the instrument package, suspended on a Kevlar filament below the balloon, to sample air between 40,ft and 75,ft.

The instruments have to work at temperatures ranging from minus degrees to plus 90 degrees Fahrenheit, withstand the low pressure of the upper atmosphere, power themselves and operate autonomously for the six-week mission. Sumner, New Mexico. Another ES 96 project for undergraduates involves designing and building a new class of instruments to measure free radicals and other reactive species from solar powered stratospheric aircraft. These instruments, which will collect data over the U. The solar powered stratospheric aircraft can also circumnavigate the globe to obtain observations related to the response of the climate structure to increasing levels of carbon dioxide and methane.

One of the biggest questions Anderson and others want to answer is whether or not the process of ozone depletion is reversible.

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Anderson knows how well-communicated science can spur action on climate change.