Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Environmental Regulation and Economy by Lynn Wong-Thai

The Environmental Regulation and Economy
Lynn Wong-Thai
PHS 100A - Environmental Studies
Professor David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
January 6, 2014 

Carbon pollution is the leading cause of global warming, increasing the chances of natural disasters, drought and flood, hurting our health and costing our nation millions to trillions of dollars in health care costs.  When it comes to connecting the dots between climate change, extreme weather and health, the lines are clear.  It’s time to listen, take action, and protect our planet from further damage by our own activities.
How can we help to reduce the carbon pollution and increase the effectiveness of Environmental Law?        
Studies shows that the rise in greenhouse gases primarily results from the combustion of fossil fuels for energy and from the loss of carbon-absorbing vegetation due to deforestation.  Many scientists across the world are urging governments to address this issue.  In 2005, the national academies of science from 11 nations gathered together to address the global warming issue and they issued a joint statement asking political leaders to take action.  The statement simply asked people to be more conscious about the climate change and take prompt action to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system (Withgott, Laposata, 2013).  In the United States, many heated debates over climate change cast doubt on the scientific consensus.  These individuals together with corporate interests admit that the climate is changing but remain doubtful if humans were to blame.  Businesses and individuals often view regulations as overly restrictive, bureaucratic or costly. 
Environmental policy aims to promote plans and principles; it acts as a guide for decision making.  The goals of environmental policy are to protect resources against the tragedy of the commons and promote fairness by eliminating free riders and addressing external costs.  For example, the polluter-pays principle, suggesting those responsible for pollution should shoulder the cost for its impacts.  Most environmental laws and regulations use a command-and-control strategy in regulating agency, prohibiting certain actions and punishing those who violate the rules and regulations.  This approach has allowed many citizens of the United States and many other nations to have cleaner air, cleaner water and healthier neighborhoods that we live in today. 
Most people recognize that fossil fuel consumption is altering the planet that our children will inherit.  As citizens of this society, everyone, not just leaders in government and business, is responsible for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Reducing fossil fuel requires many baby steps and it involves many people and institutions across many sectors.  This effort can be achieved using current technology and implementing these changes immediately will stabilize our CO2 emission level.  As scientists Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow suggest, if we follow the age-old wisdom by breaking the jobs into small parts, the job won’t be too big to handle. 
We can make lifestyle changes to reduce electricity consumption by replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights reducing energy use for lighting by 40% according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Program.  Some people choose to move closer to their workplace while others use mass transit including buses, subway trains, light rail and even remote-in from home.  For example, Google is working with investor-owned energy from Duke Energy to reduce its carbon footprint to zero by purchasing renewable energy credits.  It wants the energy and the credit to help move the market towards more green energy (Environmental Leader, 2013). 
Actions are being taken by nine northeastern states collaborating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative by joining cap-and-trade programs for carbon emissions from power plants.  A similar approach is called fee-and-dividend or green taxes; funds or fees paid to government by polluters are transferred as a tax refund or dividend to taxpayers.  If polluters pass their costs to consumers, these consumers will be reimbursed in the form of a tax refund.
Global climate change maybe the biggest challenge we face in our society today.  If we want to leave a sustainable earth for our future generations and to safeguard the living planet that we know, we should reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and increase our use of clean, renewable energy.  Support and encourage our government and political leaders to advocate for this and protect us our planet.


Environmental Leader (2013). Google Shrinks Carbon Footprint 9%. Retrieved on January 4, 2014.
Fulton, W., (2010). Governing: Do Environmental Regulations Hurt the Economy? Retrieved on January 4, 2014.
Withgott, J., & Laposata, M. (2013). Environment: the science behind the stories (5th Ed.). New York, NY. Pearson Benjamin Cummings. ISBN-13:978-0-321-89742-8

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