Louis Derry is a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University working on several projects to quantify CO2 levels and their effect on some of the planet’s geological systems. He predicts several effects of President Obama’s expected announcement Monday of a plan to reduce U.S. carbon emissions from coal-fired plants by up to 20 percent.
“Reducing coal use is one of the most effective ways we currently have of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Retiring old, dirty, coal-fired generating plants will continue the U.S. trend of reduced CO2 emissions, and be the largest single step we have taken on emissions reduction. It will also reduce demand for coal mining, a practice that is destructive to the local environment and dangerous for workers.
“Finally, it will improve air quality. In the U.S., pollutants from coal combustion are responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths annually, increased hospitalization for asthma and other respiratory diseases, and contamination of food sources with heavy metals. We will all benefit from reduced coal burning even without the significant climate benefits.”
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