by Dan Becker
Director, Global Warming and Energy Program
While polluting industries assail the science confirming
climate change and go so far as to propose rewriting
environmental law, the Sierra Club presses ahead with public
education and positive solutions to global warming. From
publicizing its economic impacts in a new study to producing
informational video clips for local weather programs, global
warming team staff and volunteers are intensifying their
public awareness strategy.
In June, the nation's TV weathercasters will receive six
news stories produced by the Sierra Club's new meteorologist
project on the sources and impacts of global warming and
solutions for change. These reports can help fill the
coverage gap and Club activists will be key to informing
stations of the resource.
And while the president may have come to recognize the high
costs of global warming and the need for action,
congressional leaders remain far behind. Backed by auto
industry lobbyists and PAC dollars, they are working to
weaken law that contains the biggest single step to curbing
global warming - CAFE standards.
Formally known as corporate average fuel economy, CAFE
standards set miles-per- gallon requirements for cars and
light trucks. Given that carbon dioxide has proven the
largest contributor to global warming, the Sierra Club and
other environmental organizations argue that a strong CAFE
is the quickest, surest and most economical way of cutting
Passed by Congress in 1975, CAFE required a doubling of auto
fuel efficiency standards but assigned the task of
implementation to the president. Now that those standards
have been achieved (27.7 mpg for cars and 20.7 mpg for light
trucks), the auto industry and their friends in Congress are
working to prevent pollution-saving CAFE improvements by
working to weaken the law. The twin assault, H.R. 2200 and
S. 1506, is being co-sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)
and Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) and would strip the
president of the power to set CAFE and require an act of
Congress to strengthen it.
A new study by Sierra Club economist Patty Glick points out
that in the face of the massive costs posed by global
warming, weakening the CAFE law would not only be bad for
the environment, but for the economy as well. In "Global
Warming: The High Costs of Inaction," Glick stresses that we
can't afford a "business as usual" approach to reducing
greenhouse emissions based on cost-benefit analysis when
impacts like spreading tropical diseases, species extinction
and devastation to our coasts from rising sea levels cannot
be measured in dollar terms.
In contrast to these costs, strong CAFE standards slash smog
and greenhouse pollution, curb our oil addiction and trade
deficit and improve our energy security, and money saved at
the gas pump could be reinvested to create new jobs.
Congress doesn't know a good deal when it sees it.
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