By: Brittany Howell; article originally appeared in JNREL Vol. 19, No. 1
Abstract By: Ramsey Groves, Staff Member
The Department of Energy introduced the Bush Administration's "Climate VISION" initiative in February 2003. "VISION" represents "Voluntary Innovative Sector Initiatives: Opportunities Now." And its purpose is to encourage American businesses and industries to reduce the ratio of greenhouse gases (GHG's) by eighteen percent. However, because change is voluntary as opposed to mandatory, there is a concern that Climate VISION will have little positive impact on the environment.
Climate change references fluctuations in temperature, precipitation, and wind, and the impacts of these variations can be incredibly problematic. For example, experts predict that climate change will cause severe weather events, such as hurricanes, to occur more often. The earth's climate changes naturally due to variations in the concentration of certain gases in the atmosphere. However, humans can contribute to climate change when they engage in activities that emit greenhouse gases. Many of these gases are products of industrial activity, and thus a number of industries have a stake in the regulation of greenhouse gases.
Affected industries are not in favor of mandates requiring them to reduce emissions because this would be very costly. Further, the Bush Administration opposed policies that required reductions in emissions because of a fear that mandatory targets could harm economic growth. For instance, experts predict a considerable rise in gasoline and electricity prices in the event of emission regulation. The energy, manufacturing, transportation, and forest sectors of the economy would all be affected by mandates requiring emission reductions. While each of these sectors have taken some steps to reduce the ratio of greenhouse gases, many people feel that this voluntary program is not what is needed.
Opponents of the Climate VISION initiative take issue with, among other aspects, the fact that the program is voluntary. In the past, there have been several failures of voluntary initiatives. Few, if any, companies will voluntarily take steps to limit production in a way that will place them at a disadvantage relative to competition. Further, President Bush appears to have been influenced by friends in affected businesses. Critics claim that the Bush Administration consulted with oil companies concerning their climate change policy. These opponents argue that the input of oil companies resulted in an ineffective initiative.
Several viable alternatives to the Climate VISION initiative have been suggested by experts. One proposal is to begin a practice of carbon sequestration. Basically, this process entails storing carbon, a greenhouse gas, so that the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will slow. Another alternative is to promote biomass energy.
While the Climate VISION initiative is a step in the right direction, it simply is not enough. Although we cannot implement a program that will negatively affect our struggling economy, other alternatives must be considered. Our legislators and policymakers must assume the task and make effective changes.