U.S. excuses for climate inaction dwindling
A large majority of Americans now want action. (Ray Wan)
Climate change deniers in the U.S. once claimed there was no proof that pumping tons of carbon into the atmosphere was changing our climate.
This worked for a while, but Midwest drought, western wildfires, and superstorm Sandy, which all hit during 2012, have changed public opinion dramatically.
A recent poll by Duke University found 50 percent of Americans are convinced the climate is changing and another 34 percent say it is probably changing—an increase from other recent polls. A large majority of Americans now want action. The Duke poll found 64 percent of Americans want strong regulations on power plants and factories and fuel-efficiency standards for cars.
So the climate change denial camp is now trying a different argument.
It goes something like: “Yes the climate may be changing, but China is the world’s biggest carbon polluter, nothing we do in the U.S.A. will impact the amount of climate pollution they emit. Why stick our necks out unilaterally.”
Now, that argument may have run its course as well. (Not to mention that historically the U.S. has never waited for China’s lead before enacting measures to protect public health and the environment.)
On Feb. 19, China’s state-run media outlet Xinhua reported that:
China will proactively introduce a set of new taxation policies designed to preserve the environment, including a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, according to a senior official with the Ministry of Finance (MOF). The government will collect the environmental protection tax instead of pollutant discharge fees, as well as levy a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.
A carbon market and trading program is also expected as China tries to get a handle on some of the worst air pollution in the world. China aims to cut the carbon intensity of its economy by 40 to 45 percent against 2005 levels by 2020.
Australia also introduced a carbon tax, which was implemented on July 1, 2012. The controversial system is still in its early days and has faced some major obstacles. But despite the warnings of doom, the Australian economy remains among the healthiest in the world.
Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently announced legislation that would assign a fee on carbon pollution emissions that in turn will fund investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal. The proposal also would provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices.
Marty Hayden, the vice president for Policy and Legislation for Earthjustice, praised the proposal, saying, “We are pleased to see Senators Sanders and Boxer leading the charge on legislation to tackle climate change in a comprehensive manner. All parts of our government, Congress and the administration, have a moral responsibility to do their part to address climate change to protect current and future generations.”
The jury is still out on whether the U.S. will join other major emitters by putting fees on carbon pollution.
But claims that U.S. action would be dangerously bold are no longer valid.