Four Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) directors who served under Republican presidents penned a New York Times opinion piece called “A Republican Case for Climate Action.” The writers include Energy Foundation board member William D. Ruckelshaus, who headed the EPA from the agency’s founding in 1970 to 1973, and again from 1983 to 1985. The others are Lee M. Thomas, from 1985 to 1989; William K. Reilly, from 1989 to 1993; and Christine Todd Whitman, from 2001 to 2003. Collectively, they served under presidents Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush.
A Republican Case for Climate Action
By William D. Ruckelshaus, Lee M. Thomas, William K. Reilly, and Christine Todd Whitman
EACH of us took turns over the past 43 years running the Environmental Protection Agency. We served Republican presidents, but we have a message that transcends political affiliation: the United States must move now on substantive steps to curb climate change, at home and internationally.
There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected.
The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing smaller: delay could mean that warming becomes “locked in.”
A market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but that is unachievable in the current political gridlock in Washington. Dealing with this political reality, President Obama’s June climate action plan lays out achievable actions that would deliver real progress. He will use his executive powers to require reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the nation’s power plants and spur increased investment in clean energy technology, which is inarguably the path we must follow to ensure a strong economy along with a livable climate.
The president also plans to use his regulatory power to limit the powerful warming chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons and encourage the United States to join with other nations to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase out these chemicals. The landmark international treaty, which took effect in 1989, already has been hugely successful in solving the ozone problem.
Rather than argue against his proposals, our leaders in Congress should endorse them and start the overdue debate about what bigger steps are needed and how to achieve them — domestically and internationally.