I have an Op-Ed column in my school’s college newspaper: The Diamondback. It summarizes some of the main reasons why we need to pass climate legislation, mentions the release of climate legislation in the Senate, and alerts students of a Clean Energy Town Hall with US Senator Ben Cardin that my group UMD for Clean Energy is holding this upcoming Friday. If you’re in Maryland, you should come.
Energy legislation: Time to clean up
Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are scheduled to release their long-awaited comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation to the U.S. Senate on April 26. This will begin the most important environmental debate of our time: whether to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.
But regardless of whether you consider yourself an environmentalist, the benefits of addressing our carbon pollution are so vast there’s something appealing for everyone — except for the oil and coal companies. Here are some of the reasons why we must act:
Job creation will be spurred by protecting us from carbon pollution. Companies in the private sector will find it more economically beneficial to invest in clean and renewable sources of energy. The infrastructure that comes along with building wind and solar farms such as a modern electric grid will drive even more job creation. Existing buildings and homes will be retrofitted by their owners to reduce energy costs. For every $150 billion invested in clean energy, 1.7 million new jobs will be created.
The science is irrefutable. Of the climate scientists actively publishing climate papers, 97.5 percent endorse the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. The average ice mass and volume of the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica have rapidly declined since the middle of the 20th century. The past decade was the warmest on record. If we take all of the carbon dioxide stored underground and release it into the atmosphere, we will have a different planet.
Our health is damaged by the pollution from burning fossil fuels. Reducing the amount of fossil fuels we burn will improve our quality of life and reduce our health care costs. Health issues correlated with fossil fuel burning include asthma, lung disease, lung cancer, elevated mercury levels and cardiovascular disease. Between 317,000 and 631,000 children are born in the United States each year with blood mercury levels high enough to reduce IQ scores and cause lifelong loss of intelligence.
Our national security will be strengthened. Despite talk about the need to reduce our oil dependence, we are still paying foreign countries hundreds of billions of dollars a year to send us oil. By regulating carbon pollution, we’ll be incentivizing fuel efficient cars and accelerating toward battery-powered vehicles. A recent study found reducing our emissions 80 percent by 2050 would cut Iran’s revenues from oil by more than $100 million a day and $1.8 trillion by 2050.
The world is watching us with bated breath. Negotiations among nations to jointly reduce greenhouse gas emissions have slowed to a snail’s crawl since the Copenhagen summit last December. Until we’ve got a piece of legislation passed to fuel these talks by placing a declining cap on emissions and with funding to prevent deforestation, adaptation and mitigation assistance, no one is convinced the United States is actually at the table.
On Friday, there’s a Clean Energy Town Hall with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) at 2 p.m. in Stamp Student Union’s Benjamin Banneker Room. It’s conveniently the day after Earth Day and right before the climate legislation is set to be introduced, so you should come. If you’re still unimpressed, Friday is also William Shakespeare’s birthday — and John Cena’s. There, that should cover everyone. It has to.
Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.