To Paris and Beyond: Five Steps America Must Take to Protect Our Planet


As global warming's terrifying threat increases, our planet's nations came together at the Paris climate conference to fight for our future.

But the summit produced an agreement that's just too weak to protect the Earth's poorest people or our fragile web of life.

President Barack Obama recently noted that without swift action, “we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair.”

With 2015 the hottest year on record, climate change is already melting the Arctic, killing off wildlife, and ratcheting up devastating droughts, floods and heat waves.

Yet despite the president's rhetoric, the Obama administration has expanded offshore drilling and auctioned off millions of acres of public land for mining, drilling and fracking. And the president's proposals to rein in major climate polluters don't go nearly far enough. The U.S. carbon-cutting plan announced ahead of the Paris talks was far too weak to ward off catastrophic warming.

That must change.

In the wake of the Paris conference America must lead the fight against global warming. We need to embrace clean energy and leave our dirty fossil fuels in the ground.

Here are five key steps President Obama and other U.S. leaders should take to protect our planet.

1. Support a just, ambitious and binding international climate treaty:
Under the Paris framework and beyond, the U.S. should back efforts to end fossil fuel use in developed nations by 2050. Historically the United States and other rich, developed nations have been responsible for the vast majority of climate pollution.

The world's poor suffer the worst — first — from climate change. To protect vulnerable people and our planet, we must help developing countries respond to loss and damage from climate disruption and leapfrog over dirty fossil fuels and into a clean-energy future.

2. Strengthen the Clean Power Plan:
The president's plans to cut power plants' massive greenhouse pollution take a few steps in the right direction, but they won't prevent dangerous warming. And the rules encourage the use of fracked natural gas, a dangerous fossil fuel we must leave behind. 

The United States needs to move rapidly away from all fossil fuels and toward wildlife-friendly sources of clean energy.

3. Cut pollution from airplanes and other unregulated sources:
The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that airplane pollution endangers our climate. Now the Obama administration must actually cut aviation greenhouse emissions — projected to more than triple by 2050 — as well as other unregulated sources like refineries and cement plants.

4. Halt new fossil fuel development in America's oceans and on our public lands:
Ending new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and offshore areas controlled by the U.S. government would keep up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse gases from polluting the atmosphere, according to a recent analysis prepared for the Center by scientists at EcoShift.

5. Crack down on fossil fuel exports and transport:
We must halt the dangerous push to send America's dirty fossil fuels abroad. The Obama administration should declare a climate emergency to halt crude exports and must  in efforts to build export terminals for coal and liquid natural gas. The perilous expansion of oil train traffic should be reversed.

As temperatures climb and the oceans rise, the fates of millions of people — and our planet's fragile web of life — hang in the balance.

People around the world want much more ambitious action to preserve a livable climate.

Now it's time for President Obama and other leaders to listen — and to act.






People's Climate March photo courtesy Flickr Commons/Bard MBA in Sustainability