Forty years ago today, millions of activists across the country protested the environmental deterioration they saw all around them.
Today, April 22, is Earth Day. And in less than a week, on April 26, three senators will unveil new climate change legislation to help protect the Earth.
The United States Department of State recently released a report on climate change that soon will be sent to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The report says that “Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced … Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.”
An article from Reuters goes on to assert that signs of climate change are “already evident with warming air and oceans, vanishing mountain glaciers, thawing permafrost, signs of instability in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica and rising sea levels.”
The exact measures called for in the bill have not been leaked, but the senators, Democrat John Kerry (MA), Republican Lindsey Graham (SC) and Independent Joe Lieberman (CT) will propose a bill that will overall reduce emissions by 17 percent in 10 years and 80 percent by 2050 with a few additional details for different energy sectors.
The bill’s supporters believe that since the legislation is being introduced near the end of this month it will be debated and hopefully passed before the Congressional summer recess.
Currently it is not clear whether the potential legislation has enough support to pass through the Senate.
To gain support the bill needs to be good for both the Earth and the American people. I believe that what is good for the health of the Earth is always good for the people who inhabit it; politicians focus on the immediate cost-benefit analysis.
There is also the problem of the titans of the energy industry: Big Coal and Big Oil. It is doubtful that any bill that gains their support will effectively cut carbon dioxide levels to help stem the effects of climate change. The guaranteed expansion of offshore drilling and nuclear power subsidies by the government most likely will be met with a shrug.
Yet I am still hopeful for the legislation.
Nothing breeds success like success. And on the coattails of the passage of the most important health care legislation in the history of United States, Obama has shown that he knows how to get things done.
Additionally, one of the most conservative Republican senators today, Lindsey Graham, is a courageous co-sponsor of the bill. Willing to stake his political career on a divisive issue, he shows that climate action should not and cannot remain a partisan issue.
The enormous benefits of energy independence coupled with job growth can, with any luck, persuade more people to vote for the bill. The House bill passed last June could create as many as 1.9 million jobs according to a University of California study.
With constituents across the country worried about the current economic situation, this study is essential for proponents of the bill to highlight.
Finally, and most importantly, I have faith in people. Forty years ago, people across the country came together to demand governmental change. And it succeeded.
Laws such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts came into effect that have stopped rivers from catching on fire and made air safer to breathe.
No other decade has had such an explosion of research on the relationship between humans and the planet as this one. However, the work is far from over.
Forty years from now, let’s give our children the knowledge that we fought for their well-being and their home.
Happy Earth Day.