Friday, January 25, 2013

It's Now Or Never On Climate Policy

By Dale Bowling

Ironically the more climate change proceeds, the less the powers-that-be have been willing to address

Ever since George W. Bush withdrew America from the Kyoto Treaty that would have limited emissions by industrialized nations, environmental legislation here in the States has been mostly in the form of deregulation. US environmental legislation has been to allow more things into the atmosphere, to allow corporations to police their own emissions, etc.

Obviously, not only has government done little to stop climate change, but it's actually helped it along. And by not taking strong stands on the climate change it has allowed climate change deniers free rein to direct the conversation.

The Corporate Pollution Lobby has spent a lot of time and money to convince you and I that climate
change is a hoax, even as we're waist deep in Sandy clean-up, still experiencing terrible drought here
in the Midwest, and hardly a week goes by when you don't see another article about arctic or antarctic
ice melting faster than scientists' most dire predictions.

Frequently we hear how it is unethical to mire future generations in government debt, but rarely do we hear about the immorality of leaving them with an environmentally-compromised planet which will sap the quality and diminish the quantity of their lives.

And the problem is rapidly moving toward what scientists call the "Tipping Point" where even if
humanity throws everything it has at the problem, there will still be no way to reverse it.

I've talked about how climate change is already costing you and I more at the grocery and the pump,
increases the cost of insurance and how more of your tax dollars are going to pay for clean-up every
year. This costs each of us a couple of thousand dollars a year on average.

But reaching the "Tipping Point" is more than costing us money, however considerable. If we don't stop ourselves from reaching it, we'll be among the most endangered species.

Imagine the world's ice caps and glaciers completely melt and never refreeze. Every year, we get a little closer to this. Scientists predict this would lead to the Earth's ocean levels rising in the tens of meters. For the non-metrically inclined, 10 meters is about 30 feet. So a rise of 10.5 meters is roughly 45 feet. Anyplace on Earth where the elevation is below 45 feet is now underwater. Think New Orleans. Think Lower Manhattan. Think South Florida or L.A. Think anywhere on the entire coast of America. Easily 100 million Americans will be treading water or spending trillions to keep it back.

Think globally what that will mean. Entire countries devastated. Millions of people would be dead or
environmental refugees and would crowd together in the places which are safe for human habitation.
Rivers that people depend on for drinking water contaminated by sea water or depleted by the lack of
snow runoff in spring. Permanent melting of the arctic and antarctic ice alone would be an
unprecedented global disaster.

And of course there is the increasing intensity of natural disasters. Fed by warmer oceans, hurricanes
larger than Sandy and Katrina are in our future. Floods, droughts, wildfires will greatly impact human
habitat and food production. Water shortages will become increasingly common, especially out west.
And if you think states like Colorado, Nevada and California want Great Lakes water now, you ain't
seen nothing yet.

All this at the time when world population is expected to increase to 9 billion towards the end of the
century. The urgency of dealing with climate change means that this has to be a priority now.

The President has outlined some of the changes that need to take place. In his first term, Mr. Obama
pushed for and obtained stronger fuel efficiency standards on automobiles. The Stimulus also
promoted research and development of alternative energy. These are good first steps, but we need to
pass stronger emission standards for power plants, revisit the idea of a carbon tax to incentive
corporate polluters to reduce their carbon emissions and expand alternative energy tax credits.

And lots of things we haven't even thought of yet.

In short, this country needs a unified, consistent climate policy which is given the same importance
and set of resources as monetary policy or foreign policy. We missed an enormous opportunity to lead the world by example when President Bush withdrew America from the Kyoto Treaty. It makes it hard for us to say to China or India or anybody in the future that they need to watch their carbon emissions.

We need to reclaim the high ground now and lead the world in combating climate change.

I'm not Elvis, but it's now or never. 

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