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U.S. Energy Policy Must Be Changed to Address Global Warming

The United States currently emits about 24 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas pollution. The U.S. Government Accounting Office projects that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 43.5 percent by the year 2025 – a truly frightening statistic.

After running on a campaign promise to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, President George W. Bush renounced it and has actively worked to undermine critical international negotiations under the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Kyoto Protocol is the first agreement for mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions under the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and is the first step toward implementing the Framework’s goal of avoiding dangerous anthropogenic climate change. The intransigence of the United States is the greatest obstacle to the success of multinational efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Current U.S. climate policy will ensure massive and irreversible climate changes, destroy entire ecosystems, drive hosts of species to extinction, and cause massive social disruptions and economic costs as well. Action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will allow us to avoid these unacceptable consequences and can also improve the competitiveness of U.S. industries, bolster the U.S. economy and improve the quality of life for all.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more below 1990 levels is ultimately needed to stabilize our climate. The U.S. should immediately embrace the Kyoto Protocol and assume a leadership role in the immediate development and implementation of greenhouse-gas reducing measures.

Immediate changes needed in U. S. policy include the following:

• Ending subsidies and promotions of carbon intensive energy industries, including oil and coal;

• Ending plans for new oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other places, as these plans would both destroy our national treasures and guarantee further climate change;

• Adopting renewable energy standards to ensure that at least 25 percent of electricity is generated from renewable, non-carbon sources by the year 2020, and securing full funding to develop renewable, non-carbon energy sources;

• Adopting the maximum technologically feasible fuel efficiency standards for all vehicles; and

• Adopting a mandatory cap and trade system for carbon emissions to allow for their future integration into a single global market.

Science-based legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been introduced in Congress. The Safe Climate Act of 2006 in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2006 in the U.S. Senate would both require emissions reductions of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

In the absence of leadership from this presidential administration, California and other states have been leading the way. California’s Clean Vehicle Law, AB 1493 ( Pavley, 2002) law and regulations will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles by 30 percent by 2030. Seven Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have formed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce carbon dioxide with this country’s first cap and trade program.

And the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32 (Nunez and Pavley, 2006), would place mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions.