In a major announcement President Obama has laid out the next steps for action to fight the climate crisis. The plan includes new energy efficiency standards for federal buildings and appliances, scales up clean energy production on public lands with an ambitious new commitment to power 6 million homes by 2020, and uses the full authority of the Clean Air Act to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.
The President's plan is recognition of the seriousness of the climate problem and the need to prepare for the impacts of climate disruption that are already being felt. America's public lands play an important role in mitigating those impacts--from helping to minimize flooding, drought, and wildfire to cleaning carbon pollution from the air.
Healthy, protected natural areas are essential for communities to survive the effects of climate disruption. Whether it's a park down the street or the wide open range, protected public lands are an important piece of the climate puzzle and how they are managed matters. Opening wild places, either on shore or off our coasts to destructive mining and drilling is a lose-lose proposition. Dirty energy development damages the areas needed to help our families and wildlife survive a changing climate while contributing to the climate pollution that is causing the problems in the first place.
America’s public lands are often ground zero when it comes to climate disruption. There are far too many examples of public lands suffering from climate disruption. Sea level rise threatens to swamp the Everglades. In our lifetime the glaciers may disappear from Glacier National Park in Montana as a result of global warming. The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of America’s last wild places, is melting and eroding into the Arctic Ocean at an alarming rate due to climate disruption.
As put forth in the President's plan, clean, renewable energy is an important part of the effort to address climate change. When responsibly sited on public lands clean energy provides a viable solution to help our country break they dirty fuel cycle.
As we look forward to what the plan will mean for the future of our wild America one thing is clear-- the importance of permanently protecting wild places only grows as the climate threat increases. We hope the President will continue build his conservation legacy with his climate legacy.
Photo: Glacier National Park, National Park Service