I have zero expectation that Mr. Krugman, whose analyses I highly regard, will either read or heed the contents of this comment. Let me at the outset provide my credentials: from 1978 to 1989, I was counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works where I organized on December 10, 1985 the first-ever Senate hearing on global warming. I served at the will of Sen. Robert T. Stafford os Vermont, the most environmentally responsible Senator since Edmund S. Muskie, who wrote the revolutionary Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. I have also worked for two other Senators, both also environmental champions: the late William V. Roth, Jr. and Patrick Leahy. I have written two books, innumerable articles, including companion magazine pieces 20 years ago,”Does Your Cup of Coffee Cause Forest Fires?” and “Will Changing Your Light Bulb Save the World?” My clients have ranged from Greenpeace and the American Lung Association to the Southern California Gas Company and the Tokyo Electric Power Company.
The Waxman-Markey bill is not better than nothing, but instead a likely death warrant. First, it focuses almost exclusively on a pollutant, carbon dioxide, with a lifetime of 50 to 3,000 years. Reductions today will do virtually nothing to save the Arctic, Antarctic, tundra, permafrost, glaciers and humanity. For that, there must be immediate and immense reductions in short-lived causes of global warming, which have lifetimes of a few seconds to a few years: black carbon, or soot; ozone, or smog; methane, or natural gas; the “F-gases” such as CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, etc.
Secondly, the bill relies heavily on emissions trading, which has never, ever worked. It failed for leaded gasoline, ditto for smog in southern California, carbon dioxide in the so-called Clean Development Mechanism for CO2, the European trading programs for CO2 and the acid rain trading program. I spent four months traveling to California and Europe, interviewing officials and scientists, and the plain truth is that trading simply does not work. Think it does? Hike into the mountains of Vermont, and you will find the same soils that were poisoned when the acid rain program was adopted in 1990 still poisoned. The lakes are still dead and so are the forests. Sen. Stafford knew exactly what was required to save those lakes, forests and soils: a 16- to 18-million-ton reduction in sulfur missions, but the political will didn’t exist, so politicians–with the complicity of some environmental groups–hid the truth from the public by pretending that trading would do the trick.
Similarly, Stafford knew exactly what was required to save us from global warming: reductions in the full range of pollutants that cause global warming. Had the comprehensive legislation he introduced been enacted, the United States would today have cut its CO2 emissions by half, eliminated F-gases, and taken a wide range of other measures to reduce smog and other causes of warming. One advantage of Stafford’s approach is not only that it could work, but it provides actions that China, India and other such nations could take that would saves the lives of their own citizens. Indoor exposure to black carbon, for example, kills 5 million children under the age of 5 annually in the developing world.
This is science, not social policy. If the objective is to eliminate child labor, perhaps starting with a ban on 10-year-olds working, then later moving to 12-year-olds and so on is a defensible first step, and better than nothing. Same with a minimum wage or racial discrimination.
But science operates on rigid rules and is indifferent to human survival: to achieve a given effect requires a sufficient cause. If it requires 10, for example, 11 might provide relief, but 8 or 9 will not. There is no such thing as a good first step. Some of the world’s most competent scientists, ranging from James Hansen at NASA’s Goddard Center to V. Ramanathan at the Scripps Oceanographic Institute are warning that we are imminent danger. Listen to them, and act accordingly.
I have known and worked with Henry Waxman and his staff, whom I admire greatly, for more than a quarter century. He is, in my judgment, the best legislator in Congress, and his staff is the most competent and dedicated known to me. But adoption of the Waxman-Markey proposal will prove merely that Waxman is a Chairman who can produce legislation, not that he is a Chairman who can eliminate the gravest threat ever posed to human survival. I wish he could and, mostly, I wish he would.
- Curtis123, VA