Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Global Warnings

The Obama administration took what will hopefully be the first of many steps to combat global warning by allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate fossil fuel emissions from industrial polluters such as power plants, factories, and auto makers. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson declared that greenhouse gases are a health threat and a danger to public welfare, and she has directed her agency to begin mandating reductions in greenhouses gas emissions.
“The threat is real,” Jackson said yesterday. “Climate change has now become a household issue.”
She added that the EPA is authorized and obligated to try to to reduce greenhouse gas emissions per the Clean Energy Act.
This is clearly a victory for the environmental movement and for people who breathe. It's a small victory at best - these regulations are not susceptible to congressional approval, though many more proposed regulations are - but it's a constructive start. The Supreme Court had ruled in 2007 that the EPA is obligated to pursue these regulations but the Bush administration refused to sign off on them, and now President Obama is changing course.
Obama has also changed course for himself. Originally planning to visit Copenhagen for the early part of the climate change conference meeting there, he will now appear towards the end of the conference, when negotiations will likely be more detailed and intense. In addition, he's also pledge to get the United States to reduce carbon emissions to 2005 levels by 17 percent in 2020. Obama has been careful, though, not to promise more than he can deliver; several members of Congress oppose going further to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, most citing possible economic dislocation for business (but not necessarily workers employed in those businesses), with Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) foolishly insisting that global warming is a hoax.
Jackson has suggested numerous ways Americans can reduce their carbon footprint - smaller cars, more energy-efficient appliances, light rail transit - that are already par for the course in European countries and Japan. In Zurich, Switzerland, there's a concerted effort (reported by CBS News) to reduce daily electrical consumption to two thousand watts per day per resident, reducing its average per capita energy consumption by 67 percent by 2050. That could never happen in an American city. The average American already uses twice as much energy as what the average European uses now - twelve thousand watts versus six thousand. Could you imagine a city Las Vegas trying to get by on two thousand watts per day per person? Imagine what that would do to the casinos!
The average American - this one included - had better get used to cutting back. Conservation is the name of the game. The world is getting warmer, and the oil and gas are beginning to run out. The future is coming, and if present trends continue, it won't be pretty.

No comments: