The Clean Power Plan unveiled last week marks the first national effort to slash climate-warming carbon emissions from power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency says it will reduce carbon emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Before the ink had dried on the Obama administration’s new plan to limit power plant emissions, business interests and their political allies began gearing up to fight the rules in court. But compared with the scale of human-created climate change, the plan is modest and anti-regulation politicians offer no credible alternatives.

The Clean Power Plan unveiled last week marks the first national effort to slash climate-warming carbon emissions from power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency says it will reduce carbon emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

State regulators will be allowed to create their own plans to achieve that goal, choosing from options such as increasing renewable energy production and trading emissions credits with other states, a market-based system that has drawn bipartisan support.

Phasing out coal, the dirtiest form of power generation, will figure into many states’ plans. That has riled the coal industry and other trade groups that know the heavy reliance on the dirty fuel is inconsistent with any solution to climate change.

Gov. Tom Wolf said he will work with the Legislature, industry and citizens to fashion a specific plan for Pennsylvania, which has achieved a 12 percent drop in carbon emissions since 2008. Proximity to and greater use of Marcellus Shale natural gas will no doubt be part of the package.

The United States accounts for 16 percent of carbon emissions globally and has the highest rate of carbon consumption per person of any large nation. It’s incumbent on America and other big polluters to lead global efforts to end reliance on fossil fuels.

Together with Mr. Obama’s vehicle-emissions standards, the Clean Power Plan is the most serious step any administration has taken to combat climate change. Fossil-fuel lobbies complain that regulation harms their business, but they fail to show how to address the life-threatening effects of climate change without it. What is their alternative?