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Dunsmore: Clean Water Act

More than a year ago, as reported this week by the New York Times, a large number of corporate lawyers, coal lobbyists and Republican strategists began meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offices in Washington. President Obama had threatened to act forcefully to combat climate change. And they were determined to stymie whatever regulations he might propose.

On Monday afternoon, the president announced a sweeping new set of regulations that would be implemented under the Clean Water Act of 1970. They would drastically reduce the nation’s carbon production, especially the pollution emanating from hundreds of coal fired power plants. Literally minutes later, 15 state attorneys general announced they would jointly file a legal challenge to Mr. Obama’s new regulations.

Ultimately this dispute will almost certainly require another decision by the Supreme Court. The Court had previously ruled the president had such authority under the Clean Water Act, but his opponents claim the new regulations expand his reach far beyond what the Court had in mind.

Virtually all of the Republicans seeking to become their party’s presidential nominee oppose President Obama’s new climate change initiatives. And most remain highly skeptical of the views of the vast majority of the world’s scientists, that climate change is a threat to the very existence of our planet.

China is the world’s number one producer of greenhouse gas emissions. From 1888 to 1995 America  held that distinction.

Shortly after World War II, U.S. carbon emissions were greater than all other counties combined- 47 times more than China, 10 times more than Russia.

Climate change forced itself onto the world’s agenda in the 1990s. The Kyoto Protocol- the world’s first treaty limiting carbon emissions—was signed in 1997. It placed the greatest burden of reductions on the countries with long histories of industrialization. The United States refused to sign. World carbon dioxide discharges have increased by about 40 percent since Kyoto.

Last year, by promising America too would make important cuts in its carbon fuels use, President Obama, got China to join an international commitment on climate change for the very first time. Experts in the field considered this significant.

Given its history, it seems obvious that the United States has both an interest and a responsibility to lead international efforts to combat the carbon dioxide threat. So when the United Nations Conference on climate change opens in Paris, in December, it’s crucial for the American president to convince others, his country will do its part. Otherwise this vital conference will fail.

Barrie Dunsmore is a veteran diplomatic and foreign correspondent for ABC News, now living in Charlotte.
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