Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Jersey's Climate Change Non-Solution

Dear Editor,

Joe Tyrrell's November 30, 2011 article “Global warming experts paint a bleak picture of N.J.'s future” describes the future of New Jersey's climate to be less-than-stellar. It describes a future with month-long spells of 100-degree weather, ground-level ozone pollution increasing in the central part of the state, farmers having to switch crops to accommodate for rising temperatures, rising sea levels threatening coastal communities, and more frequent severe storms threatening Atlantic City. No one wants the future of New Jersey to look like this.

At the end of the article, it is suggested that the only way for a climate policy to be effective is to place a price on carbon fuel “that reflects the damage it does to health and environments.” This is false.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is cited, which is a regional “cap-and-trade” system implemented in Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada. A “cap-and-trade” system means that a total limit is set on the pollutant (greenhouse gases) by a governing body, which then sells permits to private firms so that they can emit the pollutant only to the amount specified by their held permits. Private firms who need to emit more of the pollutant than they are allowed under their permits can purchase additional permits from other firms to offset their emissions.

Initially, this may sound like a good idea. Of course, since it's a “market solution” (with little government involvement), it must be the best idea to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Who wants government “on their backs,” right?

Unfortunately, the “cap-and-trade” system, which was used to limit sulfur dioxide emissions in the 1990s in response to a significant increase in acid rain and acidification of water bodies in the northeastern United States, will not work in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The issue of sulfur dioxide emissions was very different from our current issue of anthropogenic global warming in several significant ways.

The sulfur dioxide emissions problem in the 1990s was extremely limited in scope. The main producers of sulfur dioxide are coal-fired electric plants. In the United States, the problem emitters were 110 power plants, mostly in the Midwest. The problem emitters were not all over the globe, and in every industry.

It was also only an issue involving stationary sources. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 27 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 were due to transportation. It's difficult to regulate emitters of a pollutant if every vehicle is a polluter. According to a Department of Transportation study, there were an estimated 254.4 million registered passenger vehicles in the United States alone in 2007.

The technology had also already been developed to decrease sulfur dioxide emissions, such as the installation of “scrubbers” on the smoke stacks of coal-fired electric plants. There is no suitable technology developed to date that would “scrub” the greenhouse gases from the exhaust before releasing it from vehicle tailpipes. Nor would it be worthwhile to do so, either.

The best technology developed is the technology that never has to be implemented.

Anthropogenic global warming is a design problem. Design a world where people don't need to burn fossil fuels (emit greenhouse gases), and the problem is solved. Mixed-use development will help, which is when retail, commercial, and residential uses of properties are inter-woven together rather than being separated and spread out, so that all products and services can be acquired within walking distance. Limiting deforestation will also help, since plants absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as an input for photosynthesis. So will transitioning from conventional agriculture, a fossil-fuel intensive process, to organic agriculture, which produces more food per acre anyway.

But that's only a start.

Kyle Van Dyke
Ramsey, NJ

No comments:

Post a Comment