US Climate Action and Inaction

US Climate Action and Inaction: Federal, National, Regional Legislation/Politics/Attitudes, EPA Regulations, Legal (PRE -TRUMP)

Following the election of Trump and the Republicans sweep, national (and international) US federal climate action has been decimated and an authoritarian move to suppress climate science was made federal policy. See the Climate Portal articles with extensive coverage: 


History of Climate Action in the US

Successful legislation and regulation in the US at all levels are critical for effective international mitigation action against increasingly harmful global warming / climate change impacts. 

US Senate and House climate legislation proposals and executive actions including greenhouse gas regulation by the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) are summarized below, along with regional, state, city, and local programs.

A positive initiative by the Citizens Climate Lobby, attitudes of the US public towards climate action, and Republican climate action obstruction are also covered.

Find your US Representative HERE. Find your US Senator HERE.


Federal Executive Climate Action

Federal executive climate action does not involve climate legislation. HERE is a summary of US Federal programs to mitigate climate change. A 2013 summary by Michael Gerrard is HERE. Gerrard is Director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. HERE is a summary of support for renewable energy from the stimulus Recovery Act. A major aspect is greenhouse gas regulation by the EPA, summarized below.


Pres. Obama - Strong statement on Climate Change, motivating the new EPA Proposed Rule for Existing Power Plant Emission Reductions



Video of Speech by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (Text below)


HERE is the complete text of the proposed rule.

See BELOW for more information about the EPA and climate change.


Brief Introduction to Federal Legislation

The US Congressional procedure involves both houses passing climate legislation that must be reconciled to identical versions and signed by the President. HERE is the BNA Legislative Tracker for pending climate legislation (both Senate and House).


US Senate Climate Legislation

Sanders/Boxer bill S. 332 (2013)

Here is a quote from the Sanders/Boxer carbon fee and rebate bill, and the press release:

" To address climate disruptions, reduce carbon pollution, enhance the use of clean energy, and promote resilience in the infrastructure of the United States, and for other purposes.


  • Sec. 101. Carbon pollution fee.
  • Sec. 102. Residential environmental rebate program.


  • Sec. 201. Sustainable Technologies Finance Program.


  • Sec. 301. Regulation of hydraulic fracturing.

Sanders:Boxer Fee Rebate Climate Legislation 2013

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US House Climate Legislation

No climate legislation is as of 2013 before the House of the 113th US Congress.


Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, and Senator Brian Schatz released draft carbon-pricing legislation (March 2013); see HERE. The nation’s largest polluters would have to pay a fee for each ton of pollution they release. EPA’s database of reported emissions would determine the amount of pollution subject to the fee.  The Treasury Department would be responsible for the collection and handling of the fees. “Putting a price on carbon could help solve two of the nation’s biggest challenges at once:  preventing climate change and reducing the budget deficit,” said Rep. Waxman.

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Citizens Climate Lobby

The Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) advocates for a carbon fee and 100% dividend, similar to provisions of the Stark and Sanders/Boxer proposed bills, but with all money going back to the people. To this end, annual contacts are made with US Congressmen and Senators from both sides of the aisle.



"Most impressive is the work of Citizens Climate Lobby, a relatively new, fastgrowing, nonpartisan, nonprofit group with 91 chapters across the United States and Canada. If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group."

- Dr. James Hansen, [former] head of Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA


Here is a photo of CCL volunteers in Washington DC, lobbying Congress for a carbon fee and dividend:


Talk by Joe Robertson

Citizens Climate Lobby: Full Film from DCErica on Vimeo.


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Senate Climate Action Task Force

Washington, DC (1/14/14) - During a press conference, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), announced the members of a newly formed Senate Climate Action Task Force and discussed their plans to take action on climate change.

Click here to watch the video of the press conference.


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Why do most US Republican Politicians Now Oppose Climate Action?

Republican policy now firmly opposes climate change action, even though some Republicans in the past have sponsored climate legislation. Here is the LIST of Climate Science Deniers / Climate Risk Deniers in the US Congress. There appear to be four main reasons for the Republican position:

1. Influence on Republicans by the fossil fuel industry afraid of losing power and wealth by "stranded assets". Stranded assets are fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) prevented from being extracted from the ground by climate legislation. News that oil companies are incorporating a price on carbon into their long-term financial plans is positive but does not negate the power of stranded assets.

2. Influence on Republicans by the libertarian right wing (Tea Party etc) opposing government action. This is not independent of the first point, since the Tea Party was founded by David Koch. Koch is CEO of Koch Industries, a gigantic organization specializing in fossil fuels and which own companies in many other sectors. 

3. Organized and loud right-wing media disinformation, see HERE. This disinformation attacks mainstream climate science, minimizes potential climate impacts, and maximizes costs of climate action.  Republicans rely on and trust right-wing media for information, probably do not read mainstream climate reports, and now quote denier disinformation wholesale.

4. Gerrymandering of the House of Representative districts favoring Republicans. In such a district, the real election contest is the Republican primary. Republican House members are therefore worried about preventing a primary candidate from outflanking them on the right, leading to more extreme denial positions on climate. 

Some Republicans who do (or did) support climate risk management

Bob Ingles, former SC Congressman, is in favor of a carbon tax - see HERE. Inglis blames his efforts to combat global warming for the intra-Republican challenge that cost him his South Carolina congressional seat in 2010. Since the loss, he has traveled the nation making the case to students and grassroots Republican activists that a carbon tax is both good policy and politics.

Senator John McCain (1936-2018) was formerly very active in climate legislation. From Wikipedia: "In October 2003, McCain and Lieberman co-sponsored the Climate Stewardship Act that would have introduced a cap and trade system aimed at returning greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels; the bill was defeated with 55 votes to 43 in the Senate. They reintroduced modified versions of the Act two additional times, most recently in January 2007 with the co-sponsorship of Barack Obama, among others." However more recently McCain "declined to enter negotiations over climate change legislation similar to what he had proposed in the past."


Time to Wake Up Video (Sheldon Whitehouse): Republicans Outside of Congress Support Action on Climate Change (2013)

Text is HERE


For archived climate denial/obstruction history, Click HERE.

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Attitudes of Americans toward Action on Climate Change

Here is a (Gallup) poll on American attitudes toward global warming (2017)


A systematic study of American attitudes towards climate change was done at Yale University in a study "Global Warming's Six Americas". Here are results from the 2012 study, page 13.

The anti-climate-action stance of Republican politicians appears out of step with an April 2013 poll by George Mason University, which showed a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents "feel action is necessary to deal with climate change", as reported in Science News. However other polls have produced much less optimistic results.

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Environmental Protection Agency EPA

Regulation of Greenhouse Gases


  • HERE is a description of the EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.

  • HERE is a link to the EPA RSS feed.

  • HERE is the EPA website on climate change.

  • Read an appeal to defend the EPA HERE.

The EPA issued an Endangerment Finding for greenhouse gas emissions in 2009. Under a Supreme Court ruling involving the Clean Air Act, the EPA is therefore required to regulate greenhouse gases.

For archived EPA previous action, including 2009 transcript of hearings and response to contrarian attacks, Click HERE.


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The Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan is a policy aimed at combating anthropogenic climate change (global warming) that was first proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in June 2014, under the administration of US President Barack Obama. The final version of the plan was unveiled by President Obama on August 3, 2015.

The final version of the Clean Power Plan is the first to set a national limit on carbon pollution produced from power plants. The plan would lower the carbon emitted by power generators.

The Clean Power Plan is designed to strengthen the trend of clean energy by setting standards for power plants and goals for states to cut their carbon pollution.

HERE is a state-by-state summary of the rules for reduction of CO2, for example New Jersey.

On February 9, 2016, the Supreme Court ordered the EPA to halt enforcement of the plan until a lower court rules in a lawsuit against it.  The 5-4 vote split along party lines and was the first time the Court had ever stayed a regulation before a judgment by the lower Court of Appeals.

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US Regional Climate Initiatives

Various US regional initiatives for climate exist. HERE is a summary.

In the Northeast, where the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has been in place since December 2005, utilities are switching from coal-fired facilities to those that run on natural gas.

Now, the Western Climate Initiative has gotten 11 states and Canadian provinces on board. The goal is to cut the level of greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent from 2005 levels and before 2020.

Under the Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, a long term goal of cutting carbon levels by 60-80 percent below current emissions and by mid Century has been agreed upon. The agreement, signed on Nov. 15, 2007 by six states and the Canadian Province of Manitoba, would use a cap-and-trade system.

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US State Climate Legislation and Initiatives



HERE is the Center for Climate Strategies. From their website: U.S. states play an important role in contributing to global solutions to climate change because of their size and their ability to formulate effective responses. State policies resulting from these plans have been compiled here: State Policy Tracker

State climate action plans—a product of intensive stakeholder and technical work group collaboration—are designed to reduce state greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through a wide range of specific policies and programs in the following categories:

Here is a sampling of recent interest among the very large number of state climate programs. Other relevant information is in various places on this Climate Portal, including links.



HERE is Tom Steyer speaking on energy and climate change to the California Democratic Party Executive Board. Steyer is unusual because he has combined success in a financial career with environmental action:

HERE is the latest California State proposed renewable energy legislation, the most ambitious in the US. The law would require privately and publicly owned electric utilities to generate a third of their power from wind, solar and other clean sources by 2020.



Some state actions have been counter-productive. For example New Jersey made substantial cuts in the Clean Energy Trust Fund in 2010-2011, confiscated proceeds from RGGI for 2011, and eliminated the Office of Climate Change and Energy for 2011. HERE is a statement opposing these cuts. On the positive side a New Jersey Off-shore Wind Economic Development Act was announced as part of the NJ energy policy. On the negative side, NJ plans to lower the amount of electricity to be obtained from renewable sources like solar or wind power at 22.5 percent by 2021, down from 30 percent, and with more emphasis on electricity powered by natural gas.

The New Jersey Global Warming Response Act adopted statewide limits on greenhouse gas emissions in July 2007. Specifically, the law mandates the statewide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, approximately a 20 percent reduction, followed by a further reduction of emissions to 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050. See HERE and HERE

RGGI (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) is a cap-and-trade program now comprised of nine participating New England and Mid-Atlantic States. Gov. Christie (NJ) in an executive order, withdrew New Jersey from RGGI at the end of 2011. The reason given was that the price of carbon traded on RGGI was too low to be effective. However pressure from right-wing politics played a dominant role. 

One positive sign emerged. Christie, after meetings to become informed on climate, said: "... I've always said climate change is real and it's impacting our state...It's time to defer to the experts. ”


State Senator Rob Hogg wrote a book America's Climate Century: What Climate Change Means for America in the 21st Century and What Americans Can Do about It, with the bottom line: "Climate change is the defining historical issue of the 21st Century."

The Iowa Climate Advocates is an all-volunteer group of Iowans working to educate the public about the dangers of climate change, advocating for action at all levels to slow, stop, and reverse the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and advocating for action that will safeguard people and their property from the effects of climate change and help victims of climate disasters.

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US City / Local Climate Legislation and Initiatives

Cities around the US and indeed the world are acting on climate. See COOL CITIES, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), and the World Mayors Council on Climate Change. From the ICLEI website: "In response to the fact that tackling climate change has become a key element in achieving sustainability goals at all levels, as of 2009 ICLEI´s climate work is structured under three main areas as MitigationAdaptation and Advocacy." HERE is the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a group of large cities world wide committed to tackling climate change.



HERE is a report from the New York City Panel on Climate Change, outlining early and ongoing adaptation measures and identifying best practices in adaptation planning.

Here is flooding under storm surge conditions with a sea level rise of 2 -3 meters in perhaps 200 years, making parts of NY City look like Venice  - storm categories 2 (red) to 4 (green).



HERE are Chicago's climate adaptation strategies: 1. Manage Heat: Update the heat response plan, focusing on vulnerable populations, complete further research into urban heat island effect and pursue ways to cool hot spots; 2. Pursue Innovative Cooling: Launch an effort to seek out innovative ideas for cooling the city and encourage property owners to make green landscape and energy efficiency improvements; 3. Protect Air Quality: Intensity efforts to reduce ozone-precursors through mitigation programs that reduce driving and emissions from power plants; 4. Manage Stormwater: Collaborate with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District on a Chicago Watershed Plan that factors in climate changes and uses vacant land to manage stormwater; 5. Implement Green Urban Design: Implement key steps in Chicago’s Green Urban Design plan to manage heat and flooding. These steps will enable Chicago to capture rain where it falls and reflect away some of the intensity of the sun on hot days; 6. Preserve Our Plants and Trees: Publish a new plant-growing list that focuses on plants that can thrive in altered climates. Also draft a new landscape ordinance to accommodate plants that can tolerate the altered climate; 7. Engage the Public: Share climate research findings with groups most affected – social service agencies, garden clubs, etc. Help individual households to take their own steps to reduce flooding and manage heat waves, such as installing rain barrels and back-up power for sump pumps and planting shade trees; 8. Engage Businesses: Work with businesses to analyze their vulnerability to climate change and take action; 9. Plan for the Future: Use the Green Steering Committee of City Commissioners to oversee City implementation efforts and the Green Ribbon Committee of business and community leaders to assess how the plan is being implemented, recommend revisions, and report to the Mayor and all Chicagoans on our progress.



HERE is Sustainable Jersey, a certification program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green, control costs and save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. The list of actions in the Sustainable Jersey program is HERE.



The ambitious Sonoma County CA Community Climate Action Plan is described in this video:


Municipal Organizations 

There are municipal organizations, for example the Monmouth County Cool Cities Partnership (MCCCP) in NJ.

The MCCCP participates in training for Green Teams in municipalities, as pictured below:


Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) Campaign

Initiated in 1993, the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) Campaign is the first international initiative that aims to facilitate emissions reduction of local governments through a five milestone process of measurement, commitment, planning, implementing and monitoring. 


Here is the ICLEI International Progress Report – Cities for Climate Protection (2006)For the US, the number of CCP Participants (cities) in 2006 was 161, with population: 55 million:

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The Courts and Climate

A comprehensive treatment of legal cases involving climate is given by the Center for Climate Change Law (CCCL) at Columbia Law School. For some topical cases involving contrarian/deniers and scientists see HERE.


Under a Supreme Court ruling involving the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to regulate greenhouse gases.

As reported HERE, for the second time in four years, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case involving global warming. The question before those justices now is whether the states can sue utilities to reduce their carbon emissions or whether that is a matter that should be left solely to policymakers. The initial oral arguments on the Supreme Court website are HERE.


LEGAL EPA INFORMATION: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit [10 Dec 2010] denied all the pending motions to stay EPA's regulations of greenhouse gases, some of which are scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2011.  The order by Judges Ginsburg, Tatel and Brown declared that the petitioners (several industry groups and states opposed to climate regulation) “have not shown that the harms they allege are ‘certain,’ rather than speculative, or that the ‘alleged harm[s] will directly result from the action[s] which the movant[s] seeks to enjoin.’” The order is available here.

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 Other Resources

Cap and Trade vs. Fee and Dividend

  • HERE is a discussion from Environment 360 at Yale U. 

Climate Change Policy

  • HERE is a recent seminar on Climate Change Policy with a number of talks available.

 Climate Mitigation (what YOU can do)

  • For the main section on mitigation click HERE.

  • ARTICLES on this Climate Portal.


ARCHIVE of Previous US Climate Action (Federal, State)

For more history see the Climate Portal Archives.

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Page last edited 29Aug2018

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