The Obama administration’s signature climate policy—the Clean Power Plan, meant to prevent millions of tons of carbon-dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere—was temporarily blocked last week by the Supreme Court.
The block is unprecedented, and it casts doubt on the ability of any president to mitigate climate change without help from Congress. (Though the plan may fare better in a now-reconfigured Court.)
But it doesn’t cast as much doubt on the future of American energy. U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions are already falling, thanks to cheap renewable energy, cheaper natural gas, and coordinated activism against coal. Last year, the United States pledged to the world that its 2025 emissions would be at least 25 percent lower than its 2005 levels—and, even without the Clean Power Plan, it could still keep that promise.
So the trends, if not the high court, favor Obama. But he also hasn’t yet lost the policy game. The White House is pushing forward many other regulations that will similarly restrict greenhouse gases. Some of them came out over the last year, and some are anticipated over his next year in office. Here’s a tour of some of the most important.
When measuring national ambient air quality, the Environmental Protection Agency pays special attention to five types of pollutant: ozone, mono-nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and lead. Outside of how they change the climate, all five of these can cause severe health problems. Ozone, for instance, irritates the lungs even in minuscule amounts, and higher levels of it are linked to increased emergency-room visits. It’s a major ingredient in smog—and, when low to the ground, it functions as a greenhouse gas.