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The Time for Action is NOW: Response to West Virginia v U.S. EPA

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v U.S. EPA takes the country in the absolute wrong direction, reversing years of environmental progress. Openlands agrees with the three dissenting justices in saying the majority had stripped the EPA of “the power to respond to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.”

The decision weakens the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases and dangerous air pollutants that affect our air quality and climate. Fossil Fuel-fired power plants are among the largest sources of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, second only to transportation. The United States has a major role to play on the global stage, as we are the second largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

The United Nations has made it clear in no uncertain terms that the time for action is now, having reported that climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution are three closely interconnected planetary crises that put the wellbeing of current and future generations at unacceptable risks.

The deadline to curb carbon emissions is shorter than most people realize, and the window of opportunity is shrinking exponentially with each day of inaction. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently reported that we have only three years to stabilize emissions writing, “…in the scenarios we assessed, limiting warming to around 1.5°C (2.7°F) requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030; at the same time, methane would also need to be reduced by about a third. Even if we do this, it is almost inevitable that we will temporarily exceed this temperature threshold but could return to below it by the end of the century.”

At a time when we are experiencing record-breaking heat waves, extreme flooding, and fluctuations in water levels that have resulted in tremendous amounts of a damage and loss of lives and livelihoods, we understand that climate change is an existential threat to life as we know it.

We must rely on science, which has established a roadmap to lead us out of this environmental crisis, and not politics. Congress must step in and clarify that the EPA is authorized to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. In addition to installing alternative energy at an unprecedented scale, we must accelerate support and funding for communities to use nature-based solutions that soak up carbon and make us more resilient.  The United Nations has made clear open space – from our urban canopy in parks to national wildlife refuges – are vital as over a third of the world’s climate solution. 

For the future of our people, the environment in which we live, and the clean air we all have the human right to breathe – we cannot afford to wait. The time for action is now.

photo credit: Ian Hutchinson

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