EPA report touts big benefits to US from global climate policies

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The Obama administration unveiled a new weapon Monday in its fight against climate change, with a report showing billions of dollars in domestic benefits from aggressive international climate policies.

The report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cuts across many areas of concern and sectors of the economy, including public health, electricity, water resources and agriculture.

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It’s meant to show Americans and world leaders alike what could happen by the end of the century if climate change goes unabated and what it would look like to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

It comes at an important time for President Obama’s climate agenda, as House Republicans vote this week on a pair of bills to significantly weaken or outright repeal the administration’s limits on power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions, the main and most controversial pillar of Obama’s second-term climate push.

“Based on rigorous peer-reviewed science, the report examines two possible futures,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyAs oral arguments approach, Clean Power Plan remains a threat to our most vulnerable EPA blasted over lack of protection of minorities U.S. and Puerto Rico must cooperate on Zika MORE told reporters Monday. “One is that we don’t really do anything to reduce carbon pollution, and the second is one where we take global action now.”

McCarthy called the report an “opportunity to understand how we can benefit and will benefit from global action, and how that compares to business as usual, if we don’t see that global action happen.”

Brian Deese, Obama’s top adviser for energy and environmental policy, said the report is an important piece of the administration’s drive to build support for Obama’s climate decisions.

“From our perspective at the White House, this is a very important report and another strong, clear indication that reinforces the scientific consensus that climate change is real, it’s being spurred by the human activity and it’s happening right now,” he said.

“The report also undergirds the president’s argument that we have not only a moral obligation to act, but we also have an economic opportunity, that if we take smart but aggressive actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The analysis specifically looks at the benefits in the United States by the year 2100 if world leaders successfully limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

It finds billions of dollars in avoided problems and costs in each of six areas: health, infrastructure, electricity, water resources, agriculture and forestry and ecosystems.

It does not account for the costs of the carbon controls, since it does not analyze specific policies. But officials said the costs would pale in comparison to the benefits.

While other countries’ actions are largely outside of U.S. control, the Obama administration and the Group of 7 major economies have endorsed the 2-degree limit and are seeking that benchmark in a United Nations climate pact due to be finalized in December.

But while scientists, climatologists and others have agreed that 2 degrees is a good goal, they are extremely doubtful that it is possible given the greenhouse gas commitments that countries have pledged.

That doesn’t faze administration officials.

“You are continuing to see a clear commitment to taking the type of long-term actions that will be necessary to get to the place where science tells us that we need to get,” Deese said.

McCarthy said the United States is doing its part to get countries together on a 2-degree limit.

“While we cannot know yet whether the president’s strategy is going to be successful in showing U.S. leadership, there are significant signs that that leadership is being provided and recognized,” she said.

But on Capitol Hill, Republicans are trying to stop some of Obama’s key efforts against climate change.

This week, the House will vote on a bill that would let states opt out of plans to comply with power plant carbon limits if their governors determine it would harm the state.

Lawmakers will also vote on an appropriations bill that would slash the EPA’s budget and prevent it from enforcing the power plant bill.

“This administration has been hell-bent on implementing all sorts of regulations that are harmful to both our economy and our energy security,” Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said last week when the panel approved the bill.

Again, Deese was optimistic.

“The president has made it very clear that he is not going to accept attempts to undermine this very important work by Congress,” he said, adding that one main purpose of the report is to make sure lawmakers know the stakes of the fight.

The analysis was based on peer-reviewed studies and peer-reviewed itself.