Your View: Guest Column - 'Cap and trade’ plan would save our world

Jun. 15, 2014 @ 09:17 PM


Is setting limits on carbon emissions necessary environmental policy? Remember air quality before Congress passed the 1970 Clean Air Act?  I do.
Driving into the industrial northeast along the New Jersey Turnpike in the 1960s you had to roll up the windows of your non-air-conditioned car in order not to breathe the polluted air and smell the stench that went with it. There was smog everywhere in northern New Jersey and metro New York then, but it’s mostly gone today because of the Clean Air Act.
After I moved to North Carolina, I often traveled to the mountains to view the beautiful scenery. Today when you travel through the mountains the scenes are still beautiful, but in too many places you see the effects of acid rain. Instead of the sea of forest green, you see large areas of brown where the effects of drifting air pollutants from industries in the Ohio River Valley are clearly evident. These pollutants were carried by prevailing winds and fell to earth in rainfall on the North Carolina mountains. They caused considerable damage to our environment, until acid rain legislation was approved.
The improvements in our environment starting in the 1970s that resulted directly from Congressional action by  Democrats and Republicans on the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and from EPA enforcement, can be continued with similar actions today. Despite those Acts, the economy still continued to grow.
Folks, it’s past time to get crazy politics and greed out of the way. And if Congress can’t get their act together and pass “cap and trade,” then the Obama administration is correct in having the EPA propose regulations that will curtail greenhouse gas emissions. And just as in the past, there will be no harm to the economy despite the critics’ arguments to the contrary.
Today, climate change is the issue. The growing impact of human-induced carbon emissions is already felt in rising temperatures and sea levels. To preserve our planet we must act to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions. One of the most effective ways would be through cap and trade, first introduced by President George H. W. Bush and advocated by Sen. John McCain.
Cap and trade, simply put, is setting limits on emissions of pollutants into the air by industry. Those that can meet the limits get credits that they can then sell to industries that can’t meet those limits. These non-attainment industries can continue to operate by buying the credits and paying for the cost of their pollution, while the cleaner industries sell some of the benefits of their clean technology. The law becomes an incentive to all industries to operate in a cleaner manner, and the result is a reduction in carbon emissions, a healthier environment for all of us, and a slowing of global warming.
But again, if Congress won’t do what is right for the environment and the American people, then the president can do so. He has that authority through the EPA regulatory authority. The U.S. Supreme Court said so in 2007 when they said that the EPA has a statutory obligation to limit air pollution.
This is about more than the air you and I breathe. It’s about the planet that we want to leave to our children and their children. What will that planet be like? Will it be one with a continuing rise in temperatures, disappearing flora and fauna, melting glaciers and polar ice caps, and rising sea levels?  Or, will we do what’s right and be able to leave a planet to our children’s children at least as healthy as the one we inherited? 

Gary Parker lives in Archdale.