We Need Real Action on Climate Change
It is hard to ignore something as big as climate change, but that is exactly what many world leaders are doing. Many world leaders, including President Obama, are actually pushing proposals that I believe will actually make things worse.
The president’s new carbon rule will likely reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal plants, but it relies heavily on society switching from coal to natural gas to achieve this—replacing one highly polluting fossil fuel with another. This will only encourage more natural gas development and the fracking that it depends on. While natural gas has lower CO2 emissions than coal when it is burned, the unfortunate reality is that methane is the chief component of natural gas and it has 20 times more heat-trapping capacity than CO2.
Significant amounts of methane are leaked during the full life cycle of fracked natural gas—during drilling and fracking at well sites, at processing and refinery points, and as the gas is transported and distributed through a labyrinth of pipelines and compressor stations. A study conducted by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and leading universities concluded that there is 50 percent more methane in the air than previously thought, something that should give us all reason for pause.
The president’s climate plan is being promoted by New Jersey legislative leaders that are also promoting cap-andtrade policies as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, these policies do more than fall short; they are actually a degradation of our current regulatory framework. Under cap-and-trade, corporations pay to pollute by purchasing excess credits from another source that has not used all of its allotted credits. Additionally, through offsets, polluters can pay for an emissions reduction to happen elsewhere while they continue polluting at the source.
Any true environmentalist would agree that no one has an inherent right to pollute. Under the cap-and-trade theory, it’s assumed that everyone has an inherent right to pollute as long as it’s paid for, essentially meaning your neighbor can dump trash in your yard as long as he pays to do it.
To make matters worse, these policies also tend to concentrate pollution in particularly vulnerable areas. For instance, CO2 is just one of the sources of pollution emitted from power plants which also emit mercury, sulfur dioxide and more. This creates local and regional “hot spots” that will adversely affect the air quality of surrounding communities.
We can make progress in curbing climate change if we move away from fossil fuels and toward a clean, renewable energy future. A recent study in New York found that the entire state could be powered by renewable energy sources like wind and solar that would not only help prevent a climate disaster, but could also reduce pollution generated from extreme energy development like fracking. For more information on fighting fracking and climate change, visit http://bit.ly/FWWClimateChange.
Also, join us for the People’s Climate March on September 21 at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Thousands of people from around the world will converge to demand global action to save our planet. For more information or to get involved, visit http://bit.ly/VolunteerWithFWW.
Jim Walsh is Mid-Atlantic Director of Food & Water Watch.