Climate Change Policy Debate

Today, Green Blizzard is diverging from its usual course of writing posts about ways to reduce your carbon footprint, to provide our readers with a snapshot of U.S. Environmental Policy.  Let’s jump right into it.

While the decades following 1848, marked a golden age for forty-niners in California, the 1960’s and 70’s marked the golden age for US environmentalists as the US Congress passed 22 pieces of federal environmental legislation!

Since this era however, this golden time for US environmental legislation slowly faded to silver and even to bronze as the number of new environmental policies has decreased and the amount of opposition to new environmental policies has increased.  At least effective January 1, 2011, the EPA can regulate CO2 emissions.

After this plethora of new policy, the 1980’s only witnessed the passing of one major environmental policy, which was the Superfund (CERCLA) Act that appropriated money for the clean-up of federal hazardous waste sites.  Most other enacted policies were amendments to earlier legislation.

The pace picked back up again during the Clinton Administration in the 1990’s with the passing of the Roadless Rule, which mandated that loggers could not build roads into wood-harvesting areas since these roads deleteriously dissect ecosystems.  The same administration also succeeded in strengthening ozone and particulate matter standards, or certain air quality standards, in 1997.

However, Clinton’s attempt to pass a general energy tax policy failed and would have levied a tax on coal, natural gas, petroleum gases, gasoline, nuclear energy, hydro-electricity, and imported electricity.  The funny thing is this policy was aimed at reducing the budget deficit and conserving energy whereas a present day energy tax would likely be aimed at conserving energy and reducing greenhouse gases.  Wait a minute, what about greenhouse gases?  How and when did “climate change” enter the picture?

Climate change began receiving increased attention throughout the latter part of the 1990’s following new scientific findings, the coining of the term “global warming” in 1988, and several preliminary international climate change conferences, the noteworthy of which was the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that legally binds ratifying nations to greenhouse gas emissions reductions, came out of these global discussions.

Even thoughh the EU, Japan, hundreds of developing countries and even many U.S. cities, the Bush (W) Administration did not ratify the Protocol because of the fear that greenhouse gas mitigation would significantly harm economic progress.

Later in this administration and into the current Obama Administration, the focus has been on crafting a climate change policy tailored to America’s energy and environmental desires and demands.  The most successful attempt at a climate change-focused policy was the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) which passed the House of Representatives last June (2009), but has not passed through the Senate (never made official and ratified).

Interestingly, environmental policy dialogue, which was once a specific discussion on how to best legislate to clean the air or how to prevent deforestation, became a multi-faceted debate when our government began discussing climate change solutions.

This is because climate change has numerous solutions.  For instance, all of these areas relate to mitigating climate change: energy efficiency, renewable energy, carbon offsetting, avoiding deforestation, and reducing carbon emissions.  The debate is further complicated by climate skeptics, regardless of whether you believe their concerns are legitimate, who question whether climate change exists or whether it is caused by man to some extent.

Let’s fast forward to today.  We are currently witnessing Democrats trying to use the horrific Gulf oil spill crisis to rally fellow undecided Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass federal climate change-related legislation.  In part because of the complexity of designing such a policy, partisanship and a possible lack of public support, among other things, the details of this potential up-and-coming legislation are more up in the air than a skydiver about to jump out of a plane!

Kenny FrankelAt the moment, I am not so sure we can bet on landing a lofty new green policy, but in politics, anything can happen.

Check out the Green Blizzard perspective based on a recent Columbia University study on how knowledgeable consumers are when it comes to conserving energy.

Some serious books on the topic that we’d recommend:

Check out our editor’s picks of a few other Green Blizzard articles that you will find interesting.


About the author

Kenny Frankel

As graduate of the University of Maryland, Kenny has a major in Environmental Politics and Policy, so he's undoubtedly a guy well versed in environmental issues. Now, post college he is a practitioner of sustainable living and employed by solar installation company. We all will have a deeper green perspective after reading his articles because he brings a big picture insight to our everyday purchase decisions and even recycling.  As an early staff writer for Green Blizzard, Kenny covers environmental policy, big-agricultures impact on the environment, solar energy, recycling, and products made from recycled materials.