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Pro: Action will push Americans to join fight against global warming

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Wayne Madsen
October 25, 2007
— Representing smoke-shrouded Malibu Beach and smog-shrouded Los Angeles, Rep. Henry Waxman is more concerned than most about the growing, potentially devastating concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air.

The House of Representatives’ most prominent environmentalist, the liberal Democrat has pushed for cleaner air—not to mention water and earth—ever since taking his congressional seat in January 1975.


Now he’s introduced a Carbon Neutral Government Act to force the federal government to freeze its own copious greenhouse gas emissions at 2010 levels and reduce them in subsequent years until its far-flung operations become carbon neutral.


It is hoped his “do as I do” approach will inspire his fellow legislators to force similar commitments from private industry and private utilities.


With both polar ice caps melting at record paces, it’s clear that the United States must take the lead on curbing and mitigating the disastrous effects of global climate change.


The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientifically concluded long ago that the burning of fossil fuels by humans has dramatically increased temperatures worldwide. After years of neglect by successive Bush administrations, America and the world are now reaping the destructive effects of decades of unrestricted fossil fuel use.


While anything done by the federal government to curb destructive emissions now may be too little and too late, an all-out effort to make itself carbon neutral will at least show a skeptical world that we truly care.


Indeed, the drastic effects of global climate change intrude everywhere on our daily consciousness—from the serious drought that now threatens cities in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to the deadly wildfires that have plagued Malibu and forced mass evacuations in Southern California.


And they only portend what lies ahead—floods covering low-lying areas like Calcutta, Shanghai, the Netherlands, much of Florida and most of Manhattan; mammoth forest fires raging across the globe; Category 5 hurricanes regularly battering coastlines; and urban heat waves that claims tens of thousands of lives.


Waxman’s bill is an important first step aimed at staving off these catastrophes. Right now, the federal government is the largest single producer of greenhouse gases in the United States, burning more than 1.6 quadrillion British Thermal Units of energy annually.


It would freeze its emissions at roughly that level three years from now and then gradually reduce its emission to a neutral level by 2050—emitting no more than it can offset by green environmental practices.


Waxman’s legislation would require the federal government to, among other things:


–Switch its fleet of more than 750,000 vehicles from gasoline to alternative fuels and electricity.


–Adopt strict “green” rules that ensure that all newly built, newly renovated and newly leased federal buildings comply with American Institute of Architects’ standards for carbon neutrality by 2030. Federal building currently spew out as much greenhouse gases as the combined economies of the United Kingdom, France and Japan.


The Bush administration has wasted precious time ignoring the threat of global climate change and failing to follow the lead of other nations. As a result of this foot-dragging, many states and cities are moving ahead with their own initiatives.


Waxman points out that his legislation is necessary because President Bush earlier this year actually repealed an executive order calling for the government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to levels required by the Kyoto Treaty in 1997.


Under the Carbon Neutral Government Act, Waxman says “the federal government is no longer going to be doing the least — it will become the world leader.”And, it is hoped in doing so, lead the way for Americans to shake off their energy-guzzling habits and adopt a carbon-conscious lifestyle. If not, the federal government should mandate carbon neutrality for all of us—using Waxman’s bill as the role model.


Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer for the progressive Online Journal (www.onlinejournal.com). Readers may write to him c/o National Press Club, Front Desk, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20045, or via e-mail at waynemadsen@dchotmail.com.



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