Friday, August 24, 2012

This is our Apollo moment

A couple of years ago, my family and I visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  One of the exhibits allowed visitors to listen to the actual audio of one of the Apollo launches.  I remember sitting in the “control room,” so impressed and proud of what our country and its citizens had accomplished!  I remember thinking, if we could put humans on the moon, with the “old fashioned” technology of the day, we could conquer many other technological hurdles. 

Climate change is one of the biggest issues facing our nation and the world today.  Slowing climate change is this generation’s Apollo mission.  I believe that if we have the political and popular will, climate change is an issue we can address.  Thus, I found Mitt Romney’s energy plan, announced yesterday, to be incredibly disappointing.  I’m certainly not alone in my disappointment.  Mr. Romney did not follow the lead of John McCain who, in 2008, acknowledged that climate change was a significant issue for the nation and supported carbon emissions reductions.  In fact, Mr. Romney’s plan did not mention the issue of climate change at all.  Instead of looking ahead toward renewable energy and becoming a worldwide leader in the industry, Mr. Romney’s proposal looks backwards toward an increased reliance on fossil fuels.  Here’s how it’s explained on the campaign website:

“The United States is blessed with a cornucopia of carbon-based energy resources. Developing them has been a pathway to prosperity for the nation in the past and offers similar promise for the future.

  • Conduct comprehensive survey of America’s energy reserves
  • Open America’s energy reserves for development
  • Expand opportunities for U.S. resource developers to forge partnerships with neighboring countries
  • Support construction of pipelines to bring Canadian oil to the United States
  • Prevent overregulation of shale gas development and extraction”

Additionally, Mr. Romney proposes to “amend [the] Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from its purview.”  Wow.  At a time when the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007)(IPCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)have stated that CO2 is a major cause of climate change, that’s his solution?  Here are a few statements from the IPCC and NOAA regarding climate change:

  • “Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years. The global increases in carbon dioxide concentration are due primarily to fossil fuel use and land use change, while those of methane and nitrous oxide are primarily due to agriculture. (IPCC 2007)
  • Current levels of atmospheric CO2 are the highest in the past 650,000 years. (NOAA)
  • “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. This is an advance since the TAR’s conclusion that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”. Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.” (IPCC 2007)

In comparison, President Obama’s proposed energy policy acknowledges the reality of climate change and is more favorable than Mr. Romney’s toward renewable energy (although I’d like to see the “clean coal” item disappear).  Mr. Obama’s proposals include an “all of the above” strategy that encourages development of fossil fuel resources, as well as wind and solar energy.  Probably, Mr. Obama’s biggest achievement toward reducing greenhouse gases while in office would be the legislation that will improve the overall fuel economy of the nation’s passenger auto fleet to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, roughly double the fuel economy of 2008.  

So why should our energy policy be an issue on which you vote?  Because climate change will affect the lives of our children and our grandchildren – that’s an issue greenmomsters should care about.  If you’re still unconvinced, check out this video, the first in a series on climate change from Joylette Portlock:

I fully understand that gradually moving our energy policy towards renewables won’t be easy or simple.  Neither was going to the moon.  It’s going to take leadership, vision, and political courage.  But isn’t that what we should expect from our elected officials?  The U.S. didn’t become the richest and most powerful nation in the world by looking backward.  We didn’t become who we are by being fearful of new ideas or new directions.  We’ve always been a leader in technology and innovation.  I hope we can once again find that spirit of courage, innovation, and leadership and insist that our government leaders help to create an energy policy that is sustainable for many future generations.

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