A Letter From America (Posted originally on EarthDay Network)

Posted on 2010年10月29日. Filed under: Environmental, 兴趣 |

Dear Friend,

As America approaches its election day on November 2, a puzzling phenomenon has developed – certainly puzzling, we’re sure, to the rest of the world.  Dozens of Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates from a grassroots political movement are making political hay out of denying climate change. What’s more, they’re getting followers.

Never mind that they deny the responsibility of humans to protect the Earth against global warming – most of these candidates have pledged never to vote for legislation to curb CO2 emissions – many of the Tea Party candidates deny the very science about CO2 emissions and earth temperatures. They don’t seem to wonder about the spate of devastating floods, fires, droughts and heat-waves that have happened all over the world in recent years.  Or, if they do, they certainly don’t believe human activity is the root cause.

That pledge, by the “Americans for Prosperity,” a Tea Party institution, to commit not to sign any climate change legislation that involve fees or a net increase in government revenue, has signatories from 10 gubernatorial candidates and 25 U.S. Senate candidates, including nine incumbents. Nineteen of these Senate candidates question the overwhelming agreement among scientists that climate change is occurring now and is man-made. 

What’s happening in America that causes a significant number of political leaders to blindly and blithely ignore what the world scientific community and the majority of nations recognize as fact and, moreover, the crisis of our time?

China, Spain, Germany and indeed the whole European Union are taking bold steps to spur renewable energy and curtail greenhouse gases. The European Union is on the cusp of signing up for a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, saying it wants to bridge the gap to 2012 while the international community debates another climate agreement.  EU policy makers are taking action, like changing trucking tolls to base them on CO2 emissions rather than on distance driven. China as well as Denmark, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden are big producers of wind turbine equipment while China is well on its way to becoming the leader in utility-scale solar electric equipment. China says it is following a pledge made in Copenhagen to reduce carbon dioxide emissions’ “intensity,” or emissions per unit of gross domestic product, by between 40 and 45 percent by 2020.

In the United States, a populist mood of fear about the economy has made citizens and their legislative leaders chicken-hearted. Congressional legislation that would have put some controls on greenhouse gas emissions and established a nationwide cap and trade mechanism passed in the U.S. House but failed miserably in the Senate. Any further effort is widely considered unlikely for the current session. President Obama and his cabinet are trying to maintain some forward momentum on climate change mitigation from the executive branch, with the Environmental Protection Agency taking initiatives to regulate emissions in the absence of Congressional action.

But politics across the land are not helping. In addition to the Tea Party’s influence on the U.S. Senate and House, its activists in various states are trying to halt or reverse state initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in California and New Jersey. In California, a campaign with significant financing from the same coal industry magnate that backs the Tea Party, Koch Industries, put an initiative on the ballot to halt enforcement of California’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, the most aggressive law in the country for promoting renewable energy and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

New Jersey has been working with 10 Northeastern states to set up a regional cap and trade system to limit green house gas emissions from power plants. But members of the Americans for Prosperity – yes the same Tea Party group – are pressuring the state’s governor to pull out of the initiative.

If they are successful, the damage could be considerable. These state climate change initiatives have been credited with spurring clean energy innovation in the United States. Private companies have invested in huge wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey and other eastern states. Meanwhile in California, investors are building solar energy farms and engineering renewable fuel for automobiles as well as equipment for solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

“Until now, the states have carried the burden of implementing demand-driving renewable energy standards in a piecemeal fashion, and these policies have been instrumental in helping the wind industry increase scale and reduce costs as much as it has. But in our current environment of political uncertainty and state budget shortfalls, this patchwork of policies is in jeopardy,” according to Science Progress issued by the Center for American Progress on October 14.

Indeed, the attack from a political party on efforts to deal with global warming is puzzling.  It is as though Hurricane Katrina did not devastate New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of the U.S.  Or that some politicians in the United States don’t have access to television and newspapers, which so vividly displayed the flooding destruction in Pakistan, the fires in Russia, and other disasters that have been attributed to climate change in recent months. 

Recession is causing both their myopia and amnesia, experts say. Unemployment in the United States remains stubbornly high at 9.6 percent, with an under-employed rate—people working part time or in jobs that are not their usual careers–persisting at about 17 percent of the labor force.  The Tea Party-backed groups fighting climate initiatives and pro-environmental protection candidates claim they are doing so for jobs and the economy.

In a spectacular irony, the U.S. industrial sector producing the most significant job growth as well as a record high growth in venture capital investment is… clean energy. 

Kathleen Rogers
Earth Day Network




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