Throughout its history, AMC has supported and fought for protecting the outdoor resources of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. So I was encouraged this summer when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Clean Power Plan, a multiyear, multisolution approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving healthier air.
I’m sometimes asked why an organization focused on outdoor recreation and land conservation would invest time and resources into issues of air quality. I think it is fundamental. AMC’s own research has shown that air pollution can impair lung function in healthy adult hikers. Likewise, dirty air negatively impacts human health, especially in young and elderly citizens. Haze pollution steals the scenic views we so often climb a mountain peak to enjoy, and weather and temperature conditions sometimes deliver dirtier air to mountaintops than to the valleys below.
The Clean Power Plan’s primary aim is to significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases—major contributors to climate change—emitted by the nation’s power plants that generate electricity by burning fossil fuels. These power plants are the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States. The plan also would help reduce ground-level ozone and particulate pollution.
Improvements won’t come overnight but they will come over time, in a way that will allow each state flexibility in its approach to meeting the new standards, by adopting new technologies, collaborating with other states, or engaging in market based interstate emissions trading. When the standards are fully implemented in 2030, greenhouse gas emissions from power plants will be nearly one-third lower than 2005 levels, while sulfur and nitrogen will have been cut by 90 and 72 percent respectively, curbing climate impacts and leading to significant reductions in smog and soot.
In addition, our region will be able to use and improve its current Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a compliance approach long supported by AMC, as an emissions trading program.
Since 1970, the Clean Air Act has been working to reduce ozone, acid precipitation, and particle pollution. The air is demonstrably cleaner than it was 30 or more years ago. Now it’s time to take on greenhouse gases and stop the advancement of climate change, which has myriad implications for natural resources, human health, outdoor recreation, and the outdoor recreation economy.
Climate change is altering the character of our outdoor resources. We need to find ways to ensure the future of outdoor recreation and the integrity of our land, water, and air. As the world comes together in Paris in early December for an international conference to address climate change, we have a leadership opportunity in our own country to put the brakes on climate change by cutting greenhouse gases.