No, it has nothing to do with economic policy
The primary purpose of economic policy should be to promote growth in employment and GDP, with a strong dollar and stable prices. Any other goal such as combating global warming can be peripheral—so long as it does not negatively impact the economy. Unfortunately, some zealots on the far left of the environmental movement believe that economic policy should be driven by their climate change goals, often advocating steps that will negatively impede economic growth and opportunity for our citizens.
The environmental movement often dramatically overstates the effects of activities like oil and gas exploration, and demonizes the innovation of corporations and farmers. As former VP Al Gore commented on the CO2 crisis: “I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.”
To combat pollution, global warming and climate change, the world must target the worst polluters such as China. The Washington Post had a revealing study comparing air pollution in 10 Worst China and United States cities with PM2.5 produced by fossil fuels as the measure—the worst United States city, Bakersfield, clocked in at 18.2 micrograms (> 10 is bad per the WHO) and Xinghai, the worst city in China clocked in at 155.2 with not one city in the list from China below 100! Many in the United States forget that emissions from other countries flow into the universe as well and just stifling the United States and depriving its citizens of fuels, water, or natural resources is not going to solve the problem on a global scale. By imposing egregious and draconian measures such as denying water to our Central Valley farmers and dumping it in the ocean to ostensibly to “save” the smelt fish—is simply shooting ourselves in the foot. In California we have reduced our water usage by 7.5% state wide.
Rational citizens do their part in supporting and promoting efforts to protect the environment by recycling and expending natural resources responsibly. It is other nations such as China, India, Mexico and Brazil that need to do more. However, if the goal of the environmental movement is to use the scare of global warming and climate change to redistribute wealth or alter the way of life in America, then that must give us pause.
President Obama’s science czar is quoted as saying that “A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States …” Yes, we must protect the environment, but not at the cost of “de-developing” America nor robbing its citizens of their livelihood and quality of life.
Rameysh Ramdas, an S.F. Bay Area professional, writes as a hobby
Yes, it needs to be driven by legislation
There are two reasons why global warming should be the primary domestic policy agenda for the United States. First, there is abundant evidence now that the ocean temperatures are rising. The rise in temperature is primarily due to the green house effect of CO2 caused by human activity. The only people who don’t believe these scientific facts are more worried about leaving the next generation a world with debt. What they should be worried about is leaving them a world at all! The fact that global warming is caused by human activity does not mean we all hold our collective breaths and say OM. It means we need to focus on finding solutions to the problem at hand.
Many people see the approach to global warming as a zero sum between economy and climate. They would like to continue the status quo, plant a few trees or bike to work when convenient to save the environment. This approach is very short lived and has no chance of success. Even if we stopped any economic development and only sustained what we have, population increase alone would increase the carbon dioxide emissions. An excellent example of such short sighted and foolhardy policy is the fracking boom in the mid-west. Burning natural gas to generate electricity is far less polluting compared to burning coal. Natural gas only releases a fraction of the CO2 that is released with burning coal and does not suffer the disadvantages of other sulfur based pollutants emitted during coal burning.
That brings us to the second reason why global warming needs to be the number one economic priority in the United States. It will give the economy a sense of direction and purpose. The industrialized world has always been driven by broad directives and goals. These have resulted in technological innovation which have provided for a better quality of life for everyone. Similarly, a policy in place to reduce carbon emissions will invariably create a better life for all. In California, Tesla Motors showed that it was possible to make highly efficient cars that co-exist on our roads quietly and have a low carbon foot print. Thanks to the vast deployment of solar panels, a significant portion of residents’ power needs, especially on hot days, is generated by the sun. The largest cellulosic bio-refinery was opened recently in Kansas. This type of biofuel is not only carbon neutral and easily integrated into the fuel supply it is generated from corn stover which does not compete with food or animal feed. These are the kinds of breakthrough solutions that the world needs to reduce carbon emissions, create jobs and, heck, even bring Republicans and Democrats together! This type of innovation has to occur in great numbers and at a very large scale. This can only be possible if it driven by legislation, funding and focus.
Mani Subramani works in the semi-conductor industry in Silicon Valley.