Politics Magazine

America Finally Acts on Climate Change

Posted on the 26 June 2013 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

It pains us environmentalists that the world’s second biggest polluter and most influential nation has barely conceded that climate change is a real phenomenon, and that those Americans who do clutch their copy of An Inconvenient Truth to their hearts as if it were the new Bible often do little in practice. (Though I do wonder how far Al Gore would have got in greening the US had the true result of the 2000 presidential election been respected). But fortunately for those of us who are still going to be around in forty years time, Obama is honouring his commitment made in his inauguration speech to tackle the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Yes, the United States will make a legal commitment to cut its carbon emissions by 4% of 1990 levels over the next seven years. It will achieve this by imposing pollution limits on power stations, as these are often coal-fired and responsible for one quarter of the country’s pollution. Further to this, there will be a new mechanism to allow businesses to develop renewable energy projects on federal and state-owned land.

4% doesn’t sound like a significant reduction. But consider the fact that US emissions peaked in 2005, and so the reduction is 17% of that level. 4% in the US is also equivalent to 33% in the UK, considering differences in population and the use of resources. On the other hand, the EU on its own cannot make a tangible reduction in the pace of climate change, but if the US showed any inclination to match the modest actions that Europe is doing, we’d see real results within years. Who knows, we might actually avoid an apocalyptic disaster!

Imagine an America which makes use of the diverse and amazing forces of nature within in to produce solar, wind and geothermal energy. Imagine an America which uses resources with care: no more gas guzzlers, less emphasis on the acquisition of objects, and a healthy understanding of food. Imagine an America in which people share more and do so more often. We’re watching the first tentative steps being taken towards that future.

Although it may be difficult not to dismiss Obama’s new targets at pitifully limited, it is important to realise that this marks a sea change in this aspect of American thinking.

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