This past week the EPA formally declared 6 greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, to be pollutants. This clears the way for needed regulation of their emissions, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
I’m nearly finished reading an excellent book on environmental policy by Steven Cohen, director of the environmental policy program at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, and I’ve got an improved understanding of the political issues involved in trying to fight global warming. The global nature of the challenge really does present lots of new issues that policy-makers hadn’t dealt with before, but it finally seems that the amount of social learning in our American society has risen to the level we’ll need to begin to seriously tackle this problem.
Republicans are still clinging to the argument that it’s either environment or economy, and not both, but I think Americans are finally beginning to see past that. With the advances in understanding and technology that we’ve made, particularly in the last two decades, we now see that not only is it not a one-to-one tradeoff between protecting the environment and growing the economy, but that we can use this immense challenge to grow our economy and our jobs.
Furthermore, continuing to ignore the environmental challenges that are rising poses significant threats to private enterprise and the global economy, and that should matter to Republicans too. The article describes further threats to our infrastructure and public, threats that are large enough to interfere in our industry and impact our economy:
Among the ill effects of rising atmospheric concentrations of the gases, the agency found, were increased drought, more heavy downpours and flooding, more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires, a steeper rise in sea levels and harm to water resources, agriculture, wildlife and ecosystems.
As our nation’s scientists and policy-makers lead the way in finding solutions to the problem, our workers, including unskilled, skilled, and knowledge-based, will have plenty of work to do. And that is work that has to be done here and cannot be outsourced. It involves working in our buildings, in our parks, and on our infrastructure. It represents what can become a significant source of economic growth for the country and its communities, and it is the best way forward that I can see.
I am so glad that America is finally joining the rest of the industrialized world in a quest to tackle the 21st century challenge of global climate change. And, as ever, I am proud to have Obama as our leader.