Greenhouse gases have kept the Earth’s climate habitable for humans and millions of other species by trapping heat from the sun. These gases — carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4) — act like a blanket absorbing the sun’s energy and not allowing it to escape into space. This was essentially positive until the Industrial Revolution, when, as humans began burning fossil fuels, the release of gases into the air accelerated beyond the Earth’s ability to absorb them.
This release of gases into the atmosphere has decreased the quality of the air we breathe, creating many health risks. Polluted air is shown to damage mental health in children and adults. And, as heat accelerates, so do respiratory and lung illnesses due to climate change related wildfires and smog. As the concentrations of heat grow ever greater, the Earth will change which living things can survive on this planet — and where.
The Clean Air Act of 1970 (amended in 1977 and 1990) was designed to protect human health and the environment from the effects of air pollution. In August 2019, the EPA under the Trump administration, seeking to dismantle the Clean Air Act, moved to deregulate methane, revoke California’s vehicle emissions standards, and more. All of this was done despite the fact that CO2 is currently at the highest levels ever recorded.
President Joe Biden delivered a slew of clean air and carbon issues as top environmental priorities for his administration in a new executive order signed on his inauguration. In it agencies were directed to examine dozens of Trump-era rules, including carbon emission, clear air rollbacks and Clean Air Act rules.
The U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit handed Biden a huge win on Jan. 19 when it struck down President Donald Trump’s carbon rule for coal-fired power plants. The new White House now has a fresh start to craft greenhouse gas standards for existing sources.
And, GM gave Biden another win when they followed with an announcement that they would shift to producing 100% electric vehicles by 2035.