Two very big news stories broke this week regarding the EPA. In the first, the EPA, under direction from the pro-science Obama administration, will look into whether CO2 should be regulated according to the Clean Water Act. Back in January, the EPA determined that CO2 should be regulated according to the Clean Air Act (ending years of delay under the Bush “administration”). Now, they will look into how much more acidic CO2 emissions are making the oceans. As CO2 dissolves in the oceans in increasing quantities, the chemisty of ocean water is altered. More acidic water doesn’t allow organisms at the bottom of the ecosystem to form their external shells. If that happens on a large enough scale, the world’s oceanic ecosystems could collapse. Since a majority of the world’s people live off of the oceans’ bounty, that would have a deleterious effect on global society’s. Getting the EPA to regulate these pollutants based on scientific information (and not pre-conceived ideological answers) is good, overdue policy.
This morning, the second piece of big news came out: the EPA is expected to announce today that six greenhouse gases are pollutants and harmful to human health. Doing so would allow the EPA to regulate CO2 emissions, but the article states that the Obama administration is going to use the announcement instead as leverage to get Congress to pass legislation to regulate the emissions and set up a cap-and-trade system instead. Before I get into the policy stance and what I think the consequences will be, I want to set the stage with the following:
Potential health impacts from warming, EPA scientists said in their recommendations, include:
- longer and more severe heat waves;
- increased smog in some areas;
- dangerous flooding caused by stronger storms;
- and diseases, including malaria and dengue fever, related to flooding and warmer weather.
Look, it sounds really good that Obama wants to increase leverage on Congress. But I honestly don’t see how this convinces ConservaDems or Cons to change their stance on the subject. They’re still going to be under tremendous pressure from corporate lobbyists to gut cap-and-trade – either by setting the cap way too high or by allowing far too many allowances to the heaviest polluters. The only way I see CO2 being regulated to the degree it needs to be to alleviate future impacts after a flawed cap-and-trade plan is established is for the EPA to assume the responsibility it’s been given. Unfortunately, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has now gone on record as saying her agency would not act alone. Would they act after a flawed bill is enacted, since technically Congress would have acted? I don’t know.
Congress, especially the Senate, is filled with climate change deniers. They’re going to trot out their tired talking points about how the EPA is going to base their decision on junk-science and liberals are running around like Chicken Little trying to destroy our economy. I will of course keep watch for a Republican like Snowe to publicly support and vote for a good cap-and-trade, but that doesn’t account for Sens. Bayh, Landrieu, Nelson(s) or Sen. Specter from joining their science-hating colleagues. How much will they give away to the Cons in return for what will be a no-vote anyway?
There remains a great deal of work to do on everybody’s part. This problem won’t be solved today, despite the urgency many of us feel to do so. Two very good steps were taken this week. I applaud the Obama administration and the EPA for them.
Cross-posted at SquareState.