(36) Climate Science

New York City's greenhouse gas emissions as one-ton spheres of carbon dioxide gas


The United States and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

 Many people and communities in the United States are frustrated by the lack of action being taken by the federal government and so are acting independently. A voluntary and legally binding cap-and-­trade experiment, the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) has more than 175 members. These include globally important companies such as Ford and DuPont; the states of New Mexico and California; cities; farm bureaus; nongovernmental organizations; and universities, including Tufts. Together, these entities account for 4% of the annual emissions of the United States. The CCX is run partly as a trial so that a framework already will have been built when the government begins a nationwide compulsory cap-and-trade program-a development that most CCX participants believe is just a matter of time. CCX members make a voluntary but legally binding commitment to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases by 6% by the end of 2010 below a baseline level created in the period covering 1998 to 2001. Members may also buy and sell credits and engage in other favorable activities such as reforestation projects. The participants are getting a head start by developing programs and technologies to reduce their own emissions. Regions, states, and cities are developing their own emissions limitations programs, in part to pressure the federal government into developing an emissions reduction plan. Several states are implementing emissions trading plans. In August 2006, California became the first state to pass a cap-and-­trade plan requiring the state’s major industries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 25% by 2020, in addition to the state’s 2004 tailpipe emission reduction plan. As of May 2007, 522 mayors, representing 65 million citizens (including Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, Minneapolis and many other localities), signed an agreement committing to take the following three actions:

- Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities, through actions ranging from ant sprawl land-use policies, to urban forest restoration projects, to public information campaigns.

-Urge their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol - 7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012.

- Urge the U. S. Congress to pass the bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system. A student group called Kyoto Now! is working to reduce emissions at American universities. The goal of People of the World Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol is to collect signatures from at least 50,000,000 individuals who support the Kyoto Protocol.

All of these local and regional efforts are good, but for an emissions reduction plan to really work, the plan must be international; and the United States must be a full participant for several reasons:

-Other nations are less likely to extend Kyoto (and certainly less likely to strengthen it) beyond 2012 without the participation of the world’s historically largest greenhouse gas emitter.

-Companies and nations worldwide are less likely to invest the money needed to make the changes required to reduce emissions without the involvement of the large U.S. market.

- Companies would be more motivated to develop environmentally sound technologies if they could supply products to the world’s largest economy.

-According to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Chinese are unlikely to cooperate without the participation of the Americans, and their exploding emissions could overwhelm any gains made in emissions reductions by other nations.

Climate scientists advocate choosing an average global temperature increase above which society agrees not to go and reducing greenhouse gases emissions to keep global temperature from exceeding that value. To avoid dangerous climate change, emissions reductions need to be greater than those required by the Kyoto Protocol and will require the participation of all the nations of the world. In the absence of adequate government actions, some individuals, communities, and regions are beginning to take responsibility for their own greenhouse gas reductions. Although these measures are extremely valuable, without the coordinated effort of all the developed nations and the major developing ones, keeping global temperatures to tolerable levels is unlikely. Getting all nations on board with emissions reductions is the only way to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions necessary to significantly impact rising temperatures

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