President Barack Obama does not use his veto power often but, when he has done it, it has been to protect his legacy and key actions taken by his administration. One of these is the promise to reduce polluting gases to fight climate change.
Last August, the environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laid down new norms to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which scientists have said are responsible for the greenhouse effect and, consequently, for global warming. The new plan set a goal to reduce emissions by 32% below 2005 levels by the year 2030. This action is one of the foundations of the U.S. proposal during the recent Paris summit.
The Republican-led Congress immediately opposed the action, citing that it is an abuse of executive authority. Also, that it imposes unrealistic goals that will harm the economy by causing massive lay-offs and price spikes for consumers.
Beyond the economic impact argument, Republicans question the scientific theory that human activity has a detrimental effect on the environment. For instance, most GOP presidential candidates ‒ including all front-runners ‒ reject the idea that humans are responsible in any way for global warming. Senator Ted Cruz loves to compare those skeptics with Galileo when the astronomer argued with the people of his time who believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth.
That is why, both before and after the Paris negotiation, Congress passed two separate resolutions to block the guidelines of the Clean Power Plan proposed by Obama. Aside from annulling the plan, their purpose was to show the world that Obama was not capable of guaranteeing that the U.S. ‒ the second largest polluter on the planet ‒ would be able to reduce contaminating emissions.
Obama’s veto on Saturday is the President’s response to the dare posed by Congress. A law suit filed by 27 states and the industry to challenge the legality of the President’s plan is still pending in court.
Environmental policy is long-term. The next president will have to make the decision to reduce gases or ignore the agreement by hiding their head in the sand as ostriches do. Clean air comes with a price, but the benefits of saving the planet from catastrophes such as rising sea levels are invaluable.