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A Publication
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Obama's Clean Power Plan Will Only Cut 2030 US Greenhouse Gas Pollution By 5%

By Dr Gideon Polya

07 August, 2015

Obama recognizes the seriousness of man-made climate change and pollution-based premature deaths (avoidable deaths) but he deceptively and mendaciously offers too little too late by 2030 – in effect,  a derisory  5% reduction in overall greenhouse  gas (GHG) pollution,  a 9% reduction in  premature deaths from coal-fired power plant pollution and a 1% decrease in child asthma attacks.

Obama announced his Clean Power Plan on 3 August 2015 thus: “With this Clean Power Plan, by 2030, carbon pollution from our power plants will be 32 percent lower than it was a decade ago.  And the nerdier way to say that is that we'll be keeping 870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere…By 2030, we will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent -- and thanks to this plan, there will be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks among our children each year”.

However the careful analysis  below reveals the comprehensive falsehood of Obama's claimed consequences of a “32% off 2005 coal plant pollution by 2030”. Obama's saving grace is that his  racist, religious right Republican (R4) opponents  represent neoliberalism,  corporatism, racism and greed gone utterly mad with a remorseless  agenda of  ecocide, speciescide, omnicide, climate genocide and terracide for short-term One Percenter profit.

Obama's  announcement of power plant carbon pollution in 2030 that would be 32% lower than in 2005 [1] is a 7%  advance on his 2014 announcement of  30% off 2005 greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution of America's dirty power plants by 2030 enforceable by the US Environment Protection Authority (EPA)  under the Clean Air Act [2, 3].

This  latest policy announcement on climate change by President Obama -  32% off 2005 greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution of America's dirty power plants by 2030 enforceable by the US Environment Protection Authority (EPA)  under the Clean Air Act [1] -  still represents  “too little too late” and falls far short of what is needed to address the worsening  climate crisis.

According to the US EPA, in 2012 U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totalled 6,526 million tonnes CO2-e  of which 9% (587 million tonnes CO2-e )  was due to methane (CH4)  and 82% (5, 351  million tonnes CO2-e )  was due to CO2 from coal, gas, oil and wood burning and cement manufacture [4].  Consonant with this estimate, data from  US Energy Information Administration  (US EIA) indicate that 2012 energy-related CO2 pollution was about 5,500 million tonnes CO2 [5]. Past  and projected energy-linked CO2 pollution is in the range of  5,400 -5,600 million tonnes CO2 annually in the period of 2009-2030  [5]. The US EPA indicates that in 2012 electricity  production accounted for 32% of GHG pollution (2,088 million tonnes CO2-e)   and about half of this is now gas-fired due to the big shift from coal-fired  to gas-fired electricity generation  in recent years (the coal-to-gas electricity  generation ratio  shifting from 2.3 in 2007 to 1.2 in 2012)  [6].  

The US Energy Information  Administration has assessed a remarkably constant   US energy-related CO2 pollution (in millions of tonnes CO2)  as follows: 5,418 (2009), 5,608 (2010), 5,381 (2015), 5,454 (2020), 5,501 (2025) , and 5,523 (2030) (average value about 5,500) [5]. If systemic methane leakage is ignored (however see below), the  32% reduction plan would affect only the ostensibly dirtier, coal-based electric power plants  and hence encourage a further shift from coal to gas [7]. Ignoring cement production,   and assuming that the 32% reduction only affects coal-fired plants,  that the 2005 coal/gas electricity generation  mix was about 3, and that total GHG pollution was about the same in 2030 as in 2012 (6,526 million tonnes CO2-e  [4]), then the savings in 2030 would be 0.32 x 0.75 x 2,088 million tonnes  CO2-e = 501  million tonnes CO2-e  i.e.  501 x 100/6,526 = 7.7% or a derisory circa 8%  decrease in total GHG pollution in 2030.

 However,   when a  revised  natural gas leakage contribution to  total GHG pollution is re-assessed, US  total annual GHG pollution is revealed as 10,343.3 million tonnes CO2-e [2] and the Obama Clean Power Plan's 501  million tonnes CO2-e   savings in 2030   will be only a 501 x 100/ 10,343.3 = a 4.8%  reduction i.e. about a 5% reduction of what it would otherwise be. .

Noting that an  estimated 52,000 Americans die annually from power generation pollutants [8],  making the same assumptions as above, the maximum decrease in energy-linked, carbon burning pollutant-related deaths in 2030 would be 501 x 52,000/ 5,523 = 4,717 or only about 4,700 fewer  carbon burning-related deaths per year in 2030 or a reduction of only 9% (rather than Obama's claimed “90%”, assuming Obama was referring to annual premature deaths),   noting that this  is a naïve upper estimate because it may take decades for the pollution exposure to result in mortality.

One notes that the pro-gas Obama plan ignores the deaths from carbon burning pollutants from carbon burning other than coal burning  for electricity.  Thus  MIT researchers from have estimated 53,000 untimely deaths annually in the US from vehicle exhaust fine carbon particulates (PM 2.5 ) as compared to a total of 200,000 such American deaths annually from PM 2.5 particulates  [ 8]. One notes that PM 2.5 particulates  are a significant pollutant from gas-fired power plants (that are nevertheless much cleaner than coal-fired plants in relation to toxic  pollutants) [9] and that the WHO has found no threshold for adverse effects of such fine carbon particulates  [10]. Indeed, a reductio ad absurdum imagines that the “32% off 2005 power plant GHG pollution by 2030” occurs in one go at the end of  2030, in which case there would be insufficient time for the pollutant reduction to have any effect at all.

Obama's assertion that “Thanks to this plan, there will be 90,000 fewer asthma attacks among our children each year” [1] may also be extremely misleading. Thus the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAAI) reports that “The number of people with asthma continues to grow. One in 12 people (about 25 million, or 8% of the U.S. population) had asthma in 2009, compared with 1 in 14 (about 20 million, or 7%) in 2001. More than half (53%) of people with asthma had an asthma attack in 2008. More children (57%) than adults (51%) had an attack. 185 children and 3,262 adults died from asthma in 2007” [11]. We could  estimate from this information that  about 10% % of a projected circa 360 million Americans in 2030 (i.e. 36 million Americans) would have asthma and that about half of these (i.e. 18 million ) would have asthma attacks in 2030, and of these about half would be children (i.e. 9 million) . Assuming only 1 asthma attack per child in 2030 and this due solely to power plant pollution, this would indicate at least 9 million child asthma attacks in 2030 and thus Obama is  saying that a “32% off 2005 greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution of America's dirty power plants by 2030” would decrease annual asthma attacks  by “90,000” or by no more than  about 1%.

In summary,  in relation to Obama's latest Clean Power Plan,   (a) 500 million tonnes CO2 (rather than the 870 million tonnes CO2 as claimed ) will be kept out of the out of the atmosphere), this corresponding to a derisory 5% reduction in overall annual GHG pollution in  2030; (b) annual deaths from power generation-derived   pollutants will decline by 9%  in 2030 (rather than by the 90% as claimed); and (c)  annual child asthma attacks would decrease by no more than 1%.     

The extraordinary insufficiency  in Obama's Clean Power Plan is exposed when one compares it with the demands of chemically-trained Pope Francis as set out in his landmark  Encyclical “Laudato si” . Whereas Obama  in effect wants a 5-8% reduction of annual GHG pollution by  2030 effected by closing coal-burning power plants, Pope Francis  has unequivocally demanded massive decarbonisation and replacement by renewable energy “in the next few years”: “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced - for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy” [12, 13, 14].

Further, Obama's plan involves a coal-to-gas transition in addition to renewable energy.  However this US coal-to-gas transition ( that is already massively underway) is flawed because (1) gas is dirty energy and a coal-to-gas policy locks in this dirty energy for decades , and  (2) high  systemic  gas leakage and a 105-times greater Global Warming Potential (GWP)   for methane (CH4) on a 20 year time frame with aerosol  impacts considered [15]  means that using natural gas to generate electrical  power can be dirtier GHG-wise than using coal [16].

In contrast to Obama's limited and flawed approach confined to the electricity generation sector, Pope  Francis adds a further key dimension to his proposal for  tackling climate change, namely a “fully borne” Carbon Price to be applied as a Carbon Tax on all GHG polluters: “Let us hope that the international community and individual governments will succeed in countering harmful ways of treating the environment. It is likewise incumbent upon the competent authorities to make every effort to ensure that the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations: the protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate obliges all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet ” (Section 195, [12]).   

The  Obama plan is too little too late and his recent pronouncements ignore the  Elephant in the Room reality  that the  whole world's 2010-2050  Terminal Carbon Pollution Budget that must not be exceeded if we are to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2C temperature rise is 600 billion tonnes CO2,  and the US finally used up its “fair share”  of this Terminal Carbon Pollution Budget before mid- 2014 [17, 18]. The US is already stealing the residual carbon pollution entitlement  of all other countries. With an annual per capita GHG pollution 3.6  times greater than the world  average and nearly 5 times greater than China's, the US  remains  remorselessly  committed to disproportionate pollution of the one common atmosphere  and ocean of all nations.

The war criminal, climate criminal, Neocon American and Zionist Imperialist  (NAZI) One Percenters running Obama and running the US are characterized, whether in endless warmongering or in grossly insufficient  climate change inaction, by  genocidal racism, murderous hegemony, global larceny and utter mendacity.

It is now very unlikely that the World will avoid a catastrophic plus 2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise – it is now  effectively too late  to prevent a climate catastrophe [19, 20]. Indeed increased temperature has already contributed to increased sea level, storm intensity, flooding and droughts i.e. climate catastrophe has already arrived for vulnerable, impoverished  populations of Island Nations, mega-delta nations like Bangladesh  and desert countries like those of the Sahel.

However despite his “too-little-too-late”, credit must be given to Obama for publicly recognizing the seriousness  of man-made climate change and taking steps in the right direction in stark contrast to the   racist, religious right Republicans (R4s ) who range from actual climate change denialists to effective climate change denialists  through corruption- and neoliberal ideology-driven climate change inaction.

Further credit must be given to Obama for radically referring to  “premature deaths” that must be avoided by climate change action. Premature death is otherwise referred to as untimely  death, avoidable death, avoidable mortality, excess death, excess mortality, preventable death  or deaths that could have been prevented [21]. The fundamentally  important metric of premature death is resolutely ignored  by politicians  for the very good reason that it provides a damning measure of the deadly ineffectiveness  of greed-perverted public policy. Thus  the 3 key existential threats facing Humanity are nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty. Nuclear weapons can destroy all of the 7 billions of Humanity [22]. Already each year about 0.5 million people die  from climate change, and   7 million die from air pollution [23, 24].  Poverty kills  and each year about 17 million people (half of them  children) die avoidably (prematurely) from deprivation or deprivation–exacerbated disease and  1.5 billion people have died thus since 1950 on Spaceship Earth with the US in charge of the flight deck. 10 billion people may perish prematurely (avoidably)  this century if climate change is not requisitely addressed [21].  

However in relation to premature deaths  Obama has been further upstaged by Pope Francis  who in his landmark Encyclical “Laudato si” referred to premature deaths  occasioned  by pollution or poverty: “ 20. Some forms of pollution are part of people's daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths …  48. The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation… The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems which are insufficiently represented on global agendas” (Sections 20 and 48,  [12]).

Obama's now expressed concern about American “premature deaths from power plant emissions”  is certainly welcome  but it is unlikely that Neocon American and Zionist Imperialist  (NAZI) puppet Obama   will extend his concern to the 1.5 million Americans who die preventably (prematurely) each year  [25, 26] or the over 20 million Americans who have died thus since the US Government's 9-11 false flag atrocity [27, 28 ], this post-9-11 carnage being inescapably linked the to fiscal perversion of killing 10 million Muslims abroad through violence or imposed deprivation in the War on Terror rather than keeping Americans alive at home [26].


Obama recognizes the seriousness of man-made climate change and pollution-based premature deaths (avoidable deaths) but he deceptively and mendaciously offers too little too late by 2030 – in effect,  a 5% reduction in overall greenhouse  gas (GHG) pollution,  a 9% reduction in  premature deaths from coal-fired power plant pollution, and a 1% decrease in child asthma attacks.

In stark contrast,  Pope Francis recognizes a looming climate “catastrophe” and “millions of premature deaths” from carbon burning pollutants,  demands massive decarbonisation and conversion to renewables  starting “in the  next few years”, rejects Carbon Trading as a dishonest “ploy”, advocates a “fully borne” Carbon Price (Carbon Tax) on polluters, and proposes “boycotts” to bring neoliberal polluters to heel [14].

The horrible reality hidden by Obama's smooth rhetoric is that it is now very unlikely that the world will avoid a catastrophic plus 2 degrees Centigrade temperature  rise [19, 20]. However this awful reality must  invigorate us to do everything we can to make the future “less bad” for our children and future generations [29].

What can decent people – and especially the young -  do in the face of worsening climate crisis, climate genocide, climate injustice and intergenerational  injustice? Decent people must (a)  inform everyone they can,  (b) urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all those climate criminal  people, politicians, parties, companies,   corporations and countries disproportionately complicit in the worsening climate crisis and climate change inaction, and (c) support pro-environment, pro-Humanity and pro-Biosphere political candidates as exemplified by the European and Australian Greens.


[1]. Barack Obama, “Remarks by the president in announcing the Clean Power Plan”, White House, 3 August 2015: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/08/03/remarks-president-announcing-clean-power-plan .

[2]. Gideon Polya,  “Pro-gas Obama's EPA-based Plan To Reduce Coal-based Pollution Amounts To Climate Change Inaction”,  Countercurrents, 07 June, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya070614.htm .

[3]. Suzanne Goldenberg, “Obama unveils historic rules to reduce coal pollution by 30%”, Guardian, 3 June 2014: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/02/obama-rules-coal-climate-change .

[4]. US EPA, “National greenhouse gas emissions data”, 2014: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html .

[5]. US EIA, “Energy-related  carbon dioxide emissions”, Table A10: http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/emissions.cfm   .

[6]. Steven Macmillan, Alexander Antonyuk and Hannah Schwind, “Gas to coal competition in the U.S. power sector”, International Energy Agency, 2013: http://www.iea.org/publications/insights/CoalvsGas_FINAL_WEB.pdf .

[7]. Tim Puko, “How the EPA's plan will impact electricity, coal and natural gas markets”, The Wall Street Journal, 2 June 2014: http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/06/02/how-the-epas-plan-will-impact-electricity-coal-and-natural-gas-markets/ .

[8]. Caiazzo, Fabio; Ashok, Akshay; Waitz, Ian A.; Yim, Steve H.L.; Barrett, Steven R.H. (November 2013). "Air pollution and early deaths in the United States . Part I: Quantifying the impact of major sectors in 2005",  Atmospheric Environment , 79: 198–208: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231013004548 .

[9]. Gideon Polya, “Expert witness testimony to stop gas-fired power plant installation”, Countercurrents, 14 June  2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya140613.htm .

[10].  WHO, “Air quality and health”: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/ .

[11]. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAAI), “Asthma attacks”: http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/asthma-statistics.aspx .

[12]. Pope Francis , Encyclical Letter “Laudato si”, 2015: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html .

[13]. Gideon Polya, “Pope Francis Demands “Fully Borne” Cost of Pollution (Carbon Price) To Prevent “Millions Of Premature Deaths”,  Countercurrents, 29 July, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya290715.htm .

[14]. Gideon Polya, “Papal encyclical to save Planet”, MWC News, August 2015: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/53364-papal-encyclical-to-save-planet.html .


[15].  Drew T. Shindell , Greg Faluvegi, Dorothy M. Koch ,   Gavin A. Schmidt ,   Nadine Unger and Susanne E. Bauer , “Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions”, Science, 30 October 2009:
Vol. 326 no. 5953 pp. 716-718: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5953/716 .


[16]. "Gas is not clean energy": https://sites.google.com/site/gasisnotcleanenergy/home .

[17]. “Carbon Debt Carbon Credit”: https://sites.google.com/site/carbondebtcarboncredit/ .

[18]. “Years left for zero greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution relative to 2013”: https://sites.google.com/site/carbondebtcarboncredit/years-left-to-zero .

[19]. “Are we doomed?”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/are-we-doomed .

[20]. "Too late to avoid global warming catastrophe": https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/too-late-to-avoid-global-warming .

[21]. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, that includes a history of every country from Neolithic times and is now available for free perusal on the web: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/  .

[22]. “Nuclear weapons ban , end poverty & reverse climate change”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/nuclear-weapons-ban .

[23]. World Health Organization (WHO), “7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution”: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/ .

[24]. DARA, “Climate Vulnerability Monitor. A guide to the cold calculus of a hot planet”, 2012, Executive Summary pp2-3: http://daraint.org/climate-vulnerability-monitor/climate-vulnerability-monitor-2012/ .

[25]. Gideon Polya, “One Percenter Greed & War Means Over 1.5 Million Americans Die Preventably Each Year”,  Countercurrents, 19 September, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya190914.htm .

[26]. Gideon Polya, “ American Holocaust, millions of untimely American deaths and $40 trillion cost of Israel to Americans”, Countercurrents, 27 August, 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya270813.htm .

[27]. “Experts: US did 9-11”: “Experts; US did 9-11”: https://sites.google.com/site/expertsusdid911/ .

[28]. Elias Davidsson, “The right to the truth about the mass killings of 11 September 2001”, Dissident Voice, 2 August 2015: http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/08/the-right-to-the-truth-about-the-mass-killings-of-11-september-2001/ .

[29]. Gideon Polya , “2015 A-to-Z  Alphabetical List Of Actions And Advocacies For Climate Change Activists”, Countercurrents,  14 January, 2015: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya140115.htm

Dr Gideon Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/australian-complicity-in-iraq-mass-mortality/3369002#transcript

) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/4047-the-plight-of-the-palestinians.html ). He has published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/social-economic-history/listen-the-bengal-famine ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/



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