Climate change has been a huge governmental debate for over 30 years. How important is it? Should we put regulations in place to prevent it? If so, how should it be regulated? What solutions actually work? Those are all important questions when discussing what to do about climate change and all of them can be answered differently. There are varying interests in climate change that differ depending on location and demographic. The key to addressing these arguments with tangible results is keeping a balance between all of the factors and opinions. The first opinion goes against regulation for climate change. Those who wish for less regulation fall in the categories of either disbelief in drastic climate change and its effects or that implementation would not be cost effective and could hinder businesses. Regulation only increases spending and taxes.
They believe the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) should avoid the costly regulation of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions from cars on the assumption that they endanger public health. They say it is not required by law or the Clean air act to reduce carbon dioxide emission. 85% of the energy produced in America is produced by burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide. Reducing these emissions would affect the economy and lower the average living standards. So far, congress has prohibited any regulated reduction on carbon dioxide emissions. Even if legislation was passed to cut emissions down, they believe it would have minimal effect on improving the environment even in worst case scenarios. Under the Clean Air Act any emission discovered to harm public health would increase public spending exponentially.
Things as minimal at restaurant kitchens, apartment heating systems, and running a farm would face regulation. If the EPA finds anything to be an endangerment then large companies could lose millions. The EPA has the potential to place a whole bunch of red tape over business affecting the economy. It can do more without congressional approval than the proposals congress previously rejected. Some believe regulation is an unnecessary burden on large energy companies and wish to support the oil and gas industry. Currently the Trump administration is trying to roll back as many regulations as possible, especially ones created during the Obama administration to prevent climate change. So far Trump has already managed to rollback 46 rules and is in the process of 30 more. He has stated the he believes supporting the oil and gas industry will fuel the economy (pun intended).
If Environmental Protection Agency let up on regulation then it would release the cost burden on big companies. The EPA released information that the yearly compliance cost of the entire industry is between 74 and 85 million dollars. Because of that Trump wants to remove what was put in place by the Obama administration. In order to do that, companies would be allowed to decrease frequency of well checks to prevent methane leaks, have more freedom in the equipment they use, and allow the amount of methane become state regulated instead of national regulation. As of now leaks must be checked every 6 months and repaired within 30 days. The proposed legislation would extend that time to 1 to 2 years and 60 days for reparation instead of 30, letting leaks sit longer. Equipment would not need to be checked nearly as often.
This would reduce burdens on the oil and gas companies on the North Alaskan Slope where the climate is harsh and weather is severe during inspections. If methane production was state regulated then restrictions would become significantly less in large states and places like Texas. Trump is also calling to deregulate coal production that was reduced under the Obama plan... At a rally he stated, “We want a clean environment. ... I want clean air. I want crystal clean water and we’ve got it. We’ve got the cleanest country in the planet right now, but I’m getting rid of some of these ridiculous rules and regulations, which are killing our companies ... and our jobs.” He wants to reinstate some of the coal plants and get them up and running again to increase jobs and available fuel. A third proposal wants to reduce gas mileage requirements which would increase high GWP gas emissions (global warming potential emissions). They are willing to do this because extensive scientific study has not been done to link a specific natural disaster with climate change.
Some of the already implemented changes include the following: companies no longer have to produce reports on amount of methane emission, withdrawal of toxic waste limit from major polluting companies, allowing companies to drill oil rigs in almost all of the U.S. coastal waters, approving 2 pipelines previously rejected, restricting research and environmental studies of the U.S. Department of the Interior, removing ban on lead in ammunition, tackle, and fish weights, removing many safety precautions and assessments for toxic chemicals, and withdrawal of regulations prohibiting coal companies from dumping waste in rivers. There are even varying opinions among those who do believe we should regulate to prevent climate change, like to what extent they should be regulated. But first we need to know why many wish to regulate business and why they are willing to suffer the cost of those regulations.
There are four types of greenhouse gases being released into the environment including Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, and Fluorinated gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere. There are 3 factors when it comes to determining their effect on the environment. First, how much of the emission is produced and released into the atmosphere? More abundance is equivalent to a higher risk factor. What period of time will the emission remain in the atmosphere? The longer the greenhouse gas sits in the atmosphere, the more impact it creates. Lastly, what is their potency and impact severity on the atmosphere? Carbon dioxide is the most concentrated gas released and remains in the atmosphere the longest. A study in 2016 found that the yearly emission resulted in another 65,111 million metric tons in our atmosphere.
It is caused by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gasses. It is released when waste and all wood materials are burned and by certain chemicals during manufacturing processes. Methane, the second largest emission, is released by all gas vehicles, decomposing landfills, and by the process of refining natural gas and oil. Nitrous oxide is also emitted in similar ways to Carbon Dioxide and Methane. The last category, fluorinated gases, is currently the smallest in quantity but the most severe in effect. They are the highest Global Warming Potential gases. They cover a wide range of industrial uses like cosmetic production, air conditioning, refrigeration, insulation, pharmacy, electronic production, etc.…. Their uses grow exponentially. Actually estimating the extent of the environmental damage, health problems, and what these emissions will cost in the future is extremely difficult. There is a wide margin of possibilities. The first important possibility is ocean acidification, which is caused by the ocean absorbing the Carbon Dioxide in the air and its pH levels rising. The ocean is le largest absorber of the heat and natural gasses in the atmosphere.
The acidity along with rising ocean temperature is destroying marine life and many important barrier reefs. These reefs are not just important for fish but they are extremely important barriers to keep many tropical storms from ever reaching our shores. The air in our atmosphere has low capacity for heat and our oceans also retain heat much longer than the air. As a result heat is absorbed into the oceans and it remains for even longer than while in the atmosphere. Not only does heat expand the oceans waters but it continues to melt the northern and southern ice caps causing the rise of oceans’ water levels even more. A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences using a computer modeling system called Earth Systems Model of Intermediate Complexity (EMIC) that projects climate change effects revealed that even if we cut all emissions all the way down to zero by 2050 the heat and water level would continue to rise in the oceans for another 500 years.
Scientific researchers at Harvard University suggest that Donald Trump’s recent rollbacks could increase death toll rate at a minimum of 80,000 people every decade and affect over a million people with new respiratory issues or asthma. These results are especially evident when it comes to coal deregulation. Scientists must factor in health cost, disaster cost, and food production as a result of environmental detriment when calculating its possible effects on the economy. Those who would increase regulation are either cautious or afraid of the repercussions we would face if our emissions affect the environment. If anything, the people who want to regulate business really want to prevent the worst-case scenarios even if there is little chance of their occurrence. So now we can discuss possible solutions to cut down emissions and toxic chemicals that some have proposed.
Other than direct regulation and government control, the first suggestion is a market based approach. Two options of this are tradable permits or emission taxes. Tradable permits set a cap on all around emissions and sell permits to companies and large emission producers so they can release the amount of emissions they, or it would allow them to trade and buy between companies. Emission taxes would tax emissions that any company produces, but if the company does not wish to pay the tax they would lower their emission rate and find renewable solutions. The company would do whatever was cheaper in their scenario, and would allow them more freedom in the choice rather than direct legislation. The next solution comes from a company called Ener-Core and its CEO Alain Castro. It has created a solution called the power oxidizer that converts many gasses from a variety of industries into clean energy. This gives companies the ability to sell and provide clean energy while complying with regulation.
They could also use it for their own energy. Over thirty million company facilities that produce these gases spend about $800 billion on energy every year. Not only that, but this solution has already been profitably commercialized. The CEO Castro has stated ,” If there’s even as much as a one percent chance that climate change is being caused by our species, it behooves us to take action, because the consequences of not taking action are far too great. We must do something, within the bounds of the capitalistic framework of our global economy. This means finding methods to reduce emissions that won’t cripple the underlying industries, cause a slowdown in economic growth or cause unemployment. There are technologies out there today that can enable companies to actually become more productive—through improved efficiencies—while at the same time reducing their emissions. These are the types of technologies that our entire planet should be betting on, because they enable a sharp decrease in greenhouse gas emissions without the risk of crippling economic growth.”
A reducing program called the Montreal Protocol completely removed chlorofluorocarbons and other chemicals that deplete the ozone layer. Researchers say this protocol will already prevent 1.4 inches of sea level rise by 2050. That does seem relatively small along with other regulations put in place, but that is why many search for other solutions and call for tighter regulation. I believe we should do what we can to help the environment. What will it cost in the future when these things finally start to backfire, when we can no longer prevent possibly disastrous effects? What happens when we can no longer reverse the damage? God has given us the responsibility to take care of the earth and exercise dominion over it. If there are any chances of repercussion from environmental damage we should do something about it. Realistically, I know we cannot take drastic measures, but there needs to some attempt and significant effort put towards prevention.
We should begin with what is cost-effective and gradually move away from the damage we are inflicting on the environment. Whether it’s a combination of solutions or one, I hope that people will put forward a conscious effort to reduce emissions and waste. We just need more awareness. Millions of small individual choices like recycling and choosing environmentally friendly products could not only bring forth a positive impact on the environment but encourage others and big businesses to make a larger change. All in all, those who are against regulation are in favor of supporting business in the oil, gas, coal, and other industries producing greenhouse gasses and toxic waste. Those who want regulation are cautious and wish to prevent or reduce effects these emissions and wasted produce. Solutions vary between deregulation, strict regulation, or more middle ground solutions and cost effective reduction of emissions.
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