Barack Obama’s green plans make Republicans see red - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 27 June

President Barack Obama yesterday opened up what is likely to be a bruising political battle, unveiling his country’s most ambitious proposals to cut carbon dioxide emissions ever, in what he hopes will place the US at the forefront in the battle against climate change.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 26 June

Barack Obama’s green plans make Republicans see red

President Barack Obama yesterday opened up what is likely to be a bruising political battle, unveiling his country’s most ambitious proposals to cut carbon dioxide emissions ever, in what he hopes will place the US at the forefront in the battle against climate change.

Announcing the plans from Washington, Mr Obama committed his country to dramatic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, while calling on America to beef up defences against looming dangers such as rising sea-levels and flooding as more changes in weather patterns loom.

The country has suffered a series of recent environmental disasters, including last year’s Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and the tragic Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that is beyond fixing,” Mr Obama told an audience of students at Georgetown University.

In 2001, the then US president George W. Bush stunned the world by pulling out of the Kyoto protocol, an international treaty that aimed to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions from industry. Without America’s involvement, the targets set by the deal lost momentum around the world.

At the time America was the world’s biggest polluter, pumping out around a quarter of the world’s CO2. Bush’s decision left early attempts to curb levels of emissions in tatters, and it is only now – 12 years later – that the US has agreed to a reduction in its CO2 output.

Recent evidence suggests that there is growing support among Americans toward the idea that climate change does exist, and that humans could be having an impact on it, but that there is still a large minority that remains far from convinced.

A Pew Research Center poll released in April showed that 69 per cent of Americans believed in global warming, while 42 per cent felt humans were responsible for it.

However, while the majority agree it exists, a January Washington Post poll found just 18 per cent felt combating climate change should be a priority for the US government, and a March Gallup poll found 64 per cent did not see it as a threat in their lifetime.

For years the US has relied on dirtier, coal-powered power plants for cheap energy, something the UK partially abandoned in the 1980s and 1990s. Mr Obama aims to reduce his country’s emissions by lowering America’s reliance on coal and turning to the cheaper, cleaner energy produced by fracking, a process that mines gas and oil from shale deposits. But, in turn, this idea has been criticised by some environmentalists for still relying too heavily on fossil fuel, which produces carbon dioxide when it is burnt.

The strongest criticism against the Obama administration’s plans came from industry itself and Republicans, with some politicians labelling it as a “war on coal” and a “war on jobs”.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from coal-rich Kentucky, said: “It’s tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today's economy.”


  • What are the problems caused by rising carbon dioxide levels?
  • Which energy sources are the most environmentally friendly? Which are the least?
  • Why is it important that the general public support government proposals to reduce CO2 output?
  • What can you do, both at home and at school, to help reduce carbon emissions?

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"The further away the spaceship drifts, the more you start to miss the sounds of nature, of rainfall," Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova said of her historic journey into space 50 years ago this week.

In the news archive index