Climate Change and the Need for Legislation White Paper Teaser

Air pollution has a negative effect on human health and the environment. While air pollution may occur naturally, anthropogenic causes have cause for concern. The yearly global output of greenhouse gases has increased greatly since the Industrial Revolution and is now at 3 ppm/year. Such emissions can cause devastating climate change if nothing is done to ameliorate it. Climate change has been occurring since the Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago. However, the recent elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases have been linked to more severe precipitation events, stronger floods, and longer droughts, depending on geographic location. Unfortunately, many people in the United States don’t believe that climate change has been caused by anthropogenic activity, causing the government to enact policies that do very little to stave off emissions. This mindset is why the U.S. has not agreed to international emissions reduction caps.

The U.S. climate policy has a very low approval rating among other countries, often lower than 50 percent. There are distinct periods of climate policy in U.S. history that showed varying levels of concern for the environment. The most detrimental period was during the Bush administration, when any cap on emissions was vehemently opposed. The Environmental Protection Agency is now trying to enact policy to limit emissions, but without approval from Congress, its actions are largely unenforceable. Alternative energy is also a sector that should be examined more closely.  The potential to offset a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions is present, but legislation needs to be put in place to allow companies to invest in the future. Some businesses have already made investments in the hope of future gain, but many are hesitant. In order to have lasting change, Congress must educate people about why climate change is important and must also find a way to internalize the external costs of producing goods, such as the emissions released during shipping. This must be done in order for climate change to slow down.


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