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The Time to Reduce is Now

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Climate
change is real.  If we do not get our act
together soon there will be serious consequences.  In order to avoid what some scientists call
an apocalyptic scenario by century’s end, we must stop increasing global carbon
emissions by 2015
and cut carbon emissions by 25-40 percent to 1990 levels by 2020.  While the global communities actions have
already committed the world to a 1.4 degree Celsius increase over
pre-industrial levels, if we do not make these cuts the world will see mass
irreversible extinctions and widespread food and water shortages.  According to the Global Humanitarian Forum's
2009 Human Impact Report,
the consequences from climate change has already killed hundreds of thousands of
people, costs over a hundred billion dollars annually and we can expect those
numbers to grow. 

Climate
change is a global problem.  As a global
community we must act together.  While
some countries have committed to cutting emissions, the problem is they will
only commit to make sizable changes on the condition that other countries
commit to make comparable reductions. 
The European Union committed to a 20 percent reduction of carbon
emissions by 2020 from 1990 levels, but they will increase that to 30 percent
if other wealthy countries do the same. 
The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R.2454) would commit the US to a 17 percent reduction by 2020 from 2005 levels which is
merely 4 percent lower than 1990 levels. 
While reduction in US emissions alone would not be enough to prevent the
potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change, the US does play a
vital role.  By making serious commitments
to reduce emissions in the US countries like China and the EU would be more
willing to follow suit.

The
ACES bill that just barely made it out of the House does not mandate even the
bare minimum necessary 25-40 percent reduction. 
The bill includes many provisions for reducing emissions such as new
requirements for utilities, funding for new green technologies, and incentives
for energy efficiency in buildings and homes. 
Another aspect of the ACES bill is the establishment of a Cap and Trade
system which would regulate only the largest emitters, mostly utility
companies.  A Cap and Trade system would
create a market for carbon emission and limit the supply of carbon credits to
limit total carbon emissions and encourage innovation in reduction.

There
has been much attention focused on the Cap and Trade aspect of the ACES bill.  Supporters say that a Cap and Trade system
reduces the cost to the affected companies. 
It allows them to choose how they want to reduce their emissions and
gives them time to make changes because the initial cap does not require much
reduction but it will force emission reductions as the cap is lowered
annually.  It has been criticized as
being too costly and only encourages companies to reach for the low hanging
fruit.  Critics also say that it would
cost citizens due to an increase in utility and gas prices.

This
bill suffers from the same problem that most American legislation faces: it
needed to be watered down to give it a chance of passing through Congress.  Americans are not willing to take on the cost
of reducing their emissions just because scientists say that there will be
consequences in the future.  At this
point, no bill aimed at reducing carbon emissions at the necessary level will
have a chance of passing through Congress. 
Understanding that, we must accept the little progress Congress does make and support this bill as it is
a start in emissions reduction.  We are
rapidly approaching a point of no return
when the time for preventative measures will have passed and we will be forced
to face the consequences of our actions. 

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