Earth Day 2002: Fateful Choices Ahead
By Congressman Anthony Weiner
Since September 11, much of our attention has been focused on improving security measures at home, and fighting the war on terrorism abroad, and rightly so. But Earth Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on our other national priorities, especially the environment. And while President Bush has been deservedly praised for his leadership in the war, when it comes to the environment, he has clearly failed to lead. In fact, since taking office the Bush Administration has set about undermining a host of regulations, including the "New Source Review" (EPA rules designed to clean up old polluting power plants), the Forest Service's "Roadless Rule" (which limits logging in roadless areas of our national forests), and the Department of Interior's rules to safeguard public lands from oil drilling. With tax cuts for polluting energy producers, the President would cut clean water and enforcement programs, and starve the Superfund program. I've fought Bush Administration efforts to gut these important environmental protections every step of the way, because while this might be good for Enron and other big dollar Republican donors from the energy, construction and mining industries, its bad for the rest of us.
One of our most serious environmental concerns is global climate change. According to the Smithsonian Institution, global temperatures were on the rise last century, an increase that will accelerate during the next 100 years. What does that mean for us? Climate scientists say that global warming unchecked will lead to widespread droughts, floods, a rising sea level, agricultural die-offs and habitat shifts. The cost of containing damage caused just by rising sea level in places like New York City could be astronomical.
In response, the President refused to regulate carbon dioxide, the leading climate change gas, and rejected the Kyoto Protocol, a hard-won agreement now accepted by most of the industrialized world that calls for reductions of climate gases to 1990 levels. This, despite the fact that his own scientists, the National Research Council, identified human activities - the burning of fossil fuels - as the number one cause of global warming. The U.S. contributes 25% of all world carbon dioxide emissions; our participation in the Kyoto Protocol is vital.
We need to do better. That's why I'm sponsoring legislation that calls on the U.S. to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2010. And that's why I voted for an alternative energy plan that emphasizes tax incentives for clean, renewable energy technologies over polluting fossil energy--enabling us to protect the environment while reducing dependence on Middle East oil.
Furthermore, it's time for us to get re-involved with U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change--the international climate body-- a move that would signal our commitment to finding better energy solutions after 18 months of Bush Administration environmental neglect.
With every passing Earth Day, the need to protect our environment becomes more urgent. Now, more than ever, we need real leadership from the top.