We hadn’t even finished unpacking from a vacation in Ireland when we were accosted by headlines that the Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its plans to undo years of modest progress on climate change, especially the Obama Clean Power Plan. The Trump Affordable Clean Energy Rule’s bow to the U.S. coal industry (among other fossil fuel players) starkly contrasts with the Irish government’s new proposal to have 70 percent of energy be renewable by 2030. Ireland’s multi-faceted plan would, among other things, raise its current 10-euro per ton carbon tax to 80 euros by 2030. We could only shrug our heads and sigh.
The EPA plan, which is expected to go into effect in 30 days, will roll back tailpipe emission standards. If the Irish government’s proposal goes into effect, new gas and diesel cars would be banned starting in 2030, with several incentives to drivers to switch to electric cars. Local communities could, for example, provide cheaper parking rates for such cars, and they could bar fossil fuel cars from entering town centers. In new buildings, oil furnaces would be banned in 2022 and gas-fueled furnaces in 2025. There are financing plans to subsidize homeowners having to retrofit. People who create their own energy would be able to sell excess electricity back to the grid starting in 2021. Single use plastics would be heavily taxed. And on and on and on.
Only time will tell how much of the Irish government’s plan will actually be embraced and implemented, but it is many steps in the right direction. The Emerald Isle is definitely going further green. The United States is going further to the dark side, inevitably leading to increases in pollution despite warnings by most if not all scientists that climate change due to fossil fuels’ heating of our environment is an existential threat. We have a scant 20 years before the damage we are wreaking become irreversible.
Perhaps worst of all, the Trump administration is making changes that, if approved by the Supreme Court, would make it more difficult for future Presidents to reverse his reversal, limiting the EPA’s ability to make rules governing the whole country. By devolving decision-making about environmental regulations to the individual states, the administration is impeding progress that could protect the lives of our grandchildren and the very survival of the planet.
Trump, the consummate hypocrite, is dismissive of climate change – and the increased floods, droughts, wildfires, extreme temperature swings – while at the same time applying for the building of a sea wall around his Doonbeg, Ireland golf course to protect it from erosion due rising of the Atlantic Ocean. The permit cites the cause of the problem as climate change. Just one of the many issues that should be driving us to the streets in protest – or at least to the ballot box in 17 months to eject the planet’s biggest threat.