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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change » U.S. Climate Policy-What Does it Take?

U.S. Climate Policy-What Does it Take?

The United States is an incredibly difficult place when it comes to climate policy. Maybe it’s the divide down party lines over environmental topics, the lack of desire to change our habits or even just the nature of a democratic nation; regardless we Americans aren’t able to decide on how to deal with climate change. Part of the problem stems from the control industries have over decision making. The industries in the U.S. and across the globe hold huge amounts of money and thus hold huge amounts of power.

In earlier posts the book Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway proved this point, showing how the tobacco industry blatantly lied and twisted information to confuse the public about the health effects of smoking. After reading Merchants of Doubt, I tend to be much more cynical of reports such as the Resources for the Future’s “Assessing U.S. Climate Policy Options”. What concerned me from the start was page 5 of the document where the “Participants” were listed. The participants included, American Honda Motor Company, Inc. Duke Energy, DuPont, ExxonMobil, General Electric Company and more. The participants define themselves as “a few of the many companies that could be significantly affected by future efforts to manage the challenging risks of global climate change.” Clearly all these companies could be seriously impacted financially if the U.S. starts to regulate GHG emissions. How could they not want to add their input into a study which suggests policy options to our leaders?

Throughout the report, the language and suggestions hint at the influence of these companies. One part that stuck out to me was the executive summary. A focus of the summary and the report was the goal of not “unfairly burdening particular regions, industries and consumers”(7) Though it is important to be fair when dealing with many different groups, some industries are just more polluting and therefore will probably be more impacted then others. Another suggestion in the report was having a “safety valve” which involves making additional allowances of emissions available when the market price of allowances reaches a predetermined maximum(18). This would essentially be trading emissions certainty in favor of cost certainty. After learning the impacts climate change could have, favoring cost certainty seems dangerous.

Even with these and other issues, the truth of the matter is that some of these suggestions might be the only chance the U.S. has at putting something through the legislature to control emissions at all. Maybe as American’s we need to have cost certainty right now in order to make any progress towards future, more progressive policy measures.

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