It is ominously fitting that two US agencies should declare 2016 to be the hottest year on record just as the American presidency passes from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. The outgoing administration has, among other things, created a Clean Power Plan and committed the United States to the Paris climate accord. By contrast, the president-elect has merely paid lip service to the crisis of global warming while inviting climate deniers onto his transition team and into his proposed cabinet.
So what could all of this actually mean for the country’s emissions? The New York Times has offered a vivid illustration—an interactive graphic showing how current policies aim to get America closer to its Paris pledge on greenhouse gases (though still not all the way) and how Trump could stymie even those modest gains.
Scrolling down through the graphic, readers see the contributions made by things like energy efficiency standards and cuts in methane pollution. Then there’s the Clean Power Plan, a major part of America’s Paris pledge that the Supreme Court held up last year and which candidate Trump said he would scrap. Keep scrolling and nearly all of these efforts turn yellow—an indication that the new president has the power to alter or reverse them. All that’s left untouched is California’s emissions-cutting plans, which amazingly make up 5 percent of the national goal all by themselves.
During his last year in office, Obama called climate change “terrifying” and worried about humans ignoring it because it’s not “an instantaneous catastrophic event.” Hopefully illustrations like this one will help Americans, and maybe even their new leader, see the reality of the disasters that await us if we do nothing.
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