A huge step in facing devastating realityBy Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos
Cebu Daily News
The howling winds and increased precipitation and the consequent loss of lives and devastation that Super Typhoon Odette surely brings is another grim reminder that all of us, here and abroad need to act fast to fight climate change.
Three days ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States of America, through its Administrator Gina McCarthy, announced its proposal to set the first uniform national limits on the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be allowed to emit. Its proposed policy aims “to cut carbon emissions from new power plants in order to combat climate change and improve public health” (www.epa.gov). While the announced EPA regulation applies only to new power plants, it is admittedly a historic and huge step in facing the devastating reality called climate change.
According to Administrator McCarthy, the new policy is the agency’s response to the call and challenge of President Barack Obama unveiled under his Climate Action Plan to combat climate change and for federal agencies to do their share in cutting carbon pollution and protect public health.
While several states in the US have been more aggressive in shifting to the use of renewable energy and in crafting policies to mainstream a safe and healthy lifestyle in communities, the federal government has been dragging its feet in confronting the climate challenge for decades. Congress, backed by powerful Republican lawmakers and special interests is not expected to be friendly to the Obama administration’s initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to curb climate change.
An elated former US Vice President Al Gore, Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize co-awardee, who popularized climate change as an issue, which he describes as “a planetary emergency” in his book and film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” welcomes the new policy as a step forward in solving the climate crisis. He released this statement in his blog, http://blog.algore.com/2013/09/todays_epa_announcement.html:
“Today’s announcement by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is an important step forward for our nation and our planet. From now on, future coal- and gas-fired power plants must take responsibility for their global warming pollution by reducing or capturing their overall emissions.”
“This is a critical achievement for President Obama and his administration. In the face of an intransigent and inactive Congress, the President has made halting the climate crisis a priority. The policies announced today, combined with the rest of the President’s Climate Action Plan, will put us on the path toward solving the climate crisis, but Congress must also soon face the reality of the situation.”
“Three years ago, Congress failed to put a price on carbon and, in doing so, allowed global warming pollution to continue unabated. We have seen the disturbing consequences that the climate crisis has to offer—from a drought that covered 60 percent of our nation to Superstorm Sandy which wreaked havoc and cost the taxpayers billions, from wildfires spreading across large areas of the American West to severe flooding in cities all across our country—we have seen what happens when we fail to act. We need a price on carbon. We need it now.”
World-renowned climatologist Dr. James Hansen is a known proponent of carbon tax. In one of his writings ((http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2008/20081121_Obama.pdf), he explains why.
“CO2 is not the only human-made gas that contributes to global warming, but it is the dominant gas with a lifetime that dwarfs that of the other major gases. Much of the CO2 increase caused by burning fossil fuels remains in the air more than 1,000 years. So CO2 must be the focus of efforts to stop human-caused climate change.”
He adds that:
“Coal is the dirtiest fuel. Coal burning has released and spread around the world more than 100 times more radioactive material than all the nuclear power plants in the world. Mercury released in coal burning contaminates the world’s oceans as well as our rivers, lakes and soil. Air pollution from coal burning kills hundreds of thousands of people per year. If such consequences were occurring from nuclear power, nuclear plants would all be closed.”
“Mining of coal, especially mountaintop removal, causes additional environmental damage and human suffering. It is time for all the coal plants to be closed, indeed, averting climate disasters demands that all coal emissions be phased out. Coal is best left in the ground.”
Dr. Hansen proposes a Tax and 100-percent dividend scheme “to reverse the growth of atmospheric CO2. The tax, applied to oil, gas and coal at the mine or port of entry, is the fairest and most effective way to reduce emissions and transition to the post fossil fuel era…”
Putting a price tag on carbon is in accord with the international environmental law principle that “polluters must pay.” It is time to seriously look at this system to make citizens and government alike share the responsibility of protecting our planet and people, now in grave peril, due to our over-consuming ways.
More from this Column:
- Unshackling the chains
- Throwing away the throw-away mentality
- Complacency in the era of climate emergency
- A resurgence of hope
- The scars left by Yolanda