In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and with the continuing drought in the Great Plains, there is some hope that in 2013 the Obama Administration and Congress will eventually address climate disruption with its attendant economic perils. What the EPA can do through regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is limited. Two other approaches are available; a ‘carbon tax’ and ‘carbon cap and trade’. There are strong arguments for the ‘carbon tax’ approach, and it may succeed in countries like Ireland, but it is unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled House.
The auction-based ‘cap and trade’ approach to curbing greenhouse gas emissions would not be new to Congress, although it has its critics. It was the basis of the McCain-Lieberman ’Climate Stewardship Act’ in 2003. But McCain’s presidential run scuttled his support for this approach. More importantly, the ‘cap and trade’ process has already been successfully used to solve an environmental problem, that of ‘acid rain’ caused by the emission of SO2 from coal fired power plants. Finally, California has led the way among the states by recently implementing a ‘cap and trade’ process for GHG emissions.
With it’s Initiative to Limit Total Greenhouse Emissions, the Sierra Club is focused on achieving two primary outcomes in the next four years, the first of which includes setting a cost to GHG emissions:
- Working with the next Congress and president to pass federal legislation that curbs U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, puts a price on carbon in order to internalize the cost of climate change into markets and policies, and enhances our use of clean energy sources.
- Creating the domestic conditions needed for the U.S. to lead in negotiating and implementing an international climate treaty sufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels called for by climate scientists.