Issue Position: Global Climate Change

Issue Position

Date: Jan. 1, 2012

There has been much discussion recently regarding the global climate change issue and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Most of the policy discussions have taken a global or international view, but specific responses require action at the national level.

One of the difficulties in examining the issue of the climate change and greenhouse gases is that there is a wide range of scientific opinion on this issue and the science community does not agree to the extent of the problem or the critical threshold of when this problem is truly catastrophic.

For those in the science community who believe the earth is warming, they have concluded that human activities are an important cause of the recent change in the climate. The primary cause, in this view, is an increasing concentration of greenhouse gases, emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels. Thus, the policy discussion has focused on energy use, because fossil fuels are the main source of greenhouse gas emissions in most countries.

For those more skeptical in the science community, it is believed that more science is needed before major policy changes can be made.

The federal government in the past has focused its policy efforts on research funding for climate change and promoting policies that will increase energy efficiency (e.g. building standards, appliance standards, automobile mileage standards), reduce demand for fossil fuels, expand development of renewable and alternative fuels, regulate some pollutants that increase greenhouse gases (e.g. EPA regulates methane emissions from landfills, which accounts for over 40% of US methane emissions), regulate for ozone depleting substances (e.g. perfluorcarbons), and created a monitoring program for carbon dioxide emissions by electric generation facilities (under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments).

For the next two years, the Congress and the Executive Branch will be working on further policies to reduce greenhouse gases and improve our knowledge on global climate change. State governments are also taking a more active role, especially California. Most of these efforts and debate will center on further improvements in energy efficiency and alternative fuels, whether or not carbon dioxide should be regulated as a pollutant, whether or not emissions reductions should be regulated from the end user of energy resources (e.g. tailpipe), other points of distribution (e.g. electricity generating facilities), or mandating fuel choices.

Now is the time to encourage the development of zero-emission clean energy generation, such as nuclear, hydro-electricity, wind, solar, all of which can meet our energy needs now and replace older and dirtier fossil fuel generation.