The chief of the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday justified the EPA's sweeping new regulation on power plant emissions as a necessary step to prevent catastrophic increases in both the Earth's temperature and sea levels.
"If we do nothing, in our grandkids' lifetimes, temperatures could rise 10 degrees and seas could rise by 4 feet," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a Washington press conference announcing the new rule.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy warned the Earth could get 10 degrees hotter and seas could rise 4 feet without action on climate change. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
McCarthy also blamed climate change on rising medical bills, higher insurance costs, and an increased frequency in devastating storms.
"Climate inaction is costing us more money, in more places, more often," she said. "2012 was the second most expensive year in U.S. history for natural disasters."
Skeptics of the theory of man-made global warming have argued that individual storms can't be seen as evidence that the theory is correct. Some have also pointed to the very cold winter as an indication that warming may not be as bad as some believe. But McCarthy dismissed those skeptics, and said climate change is the cause of extreme weather that can lead to unreliable power supplies.
"I'm tired of people pointing to the polar vortex as a reason not to act on climate," she said. "It's exactly the opposite. Climate change heightens risks from extreme cold that freezes power grids, superstorms that drown power plants, and heat waves that stress power supplies."
On Monday morning, the EPA released its regulatory plan, which seeks to cut carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent in 2030, compared to 2005 levels. Early assessments of that plan indicate that many power plants are nearly halfway to that mark, since the baseline of 2005 was before the recession hit.
Still, Republicans are blasting the regulation as one that would kill jobs. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reacted by saying the EPA's plan is "nuts."
"The president's plan is nuts, there's really no more succinct way to describe it," he said in a released statement. "Americans are still asking 'where are the jobs?' and here he is proposing rules to ship jobs overseas for years to come."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he would propose legislation this week to stop the EPA rule from taking effect, and called it a job killer that would also raise prices on Americans who use energy.
"Today's announcement is a dagger in the heart of the American middle class, and to representative democracy itself," he said. "Already reeling from the painful effects of Obamacare, the American people are now being told they have to shoulder the burdens of the president’s latest 'solution' in the form of higher costs, fewer jobs, and a less reliable energy grid.
"The fact that the president plans to do all this through an end-run around Congress only highlights his contempt for the wishes of the public and a system of government that was devised precisely to restrain an action like today's."
McCarthy blasted critics who are claiming "the sky is falling," and who she said will "deliberately ignore the risks, overestimate the costs, and undervalue the benefits."
But while she initially rejected McConnell's claim that energy prices would rise under the regulation, she then acknowledged that prices could rise somewhat.
"Critics claim your energy bills will skyrocket. They’re wrong," she said. "Any small, short-term change in electricity prices would be within normal fluctuations the power sector already deals with. And any small price increase — think about the price of a gallon of milk a month— is dwarfed by huge benefits."
"This is an investment in better health and a better future for our kids."
The EPA is planning for its rule to take effect in June 2015, and on Monday it started the process of taking public comments on the rule. The EPA plans to take comments for 120 days, and will hold hearings in late July in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington DC.