by: Joe Lazauskas
Energy, the environment, and climate change are on everyone’s minds, from the green-thumbed hipster in Brooklyn bicycling to work to his SUV-powered parents in the Midwest.
There’s certainly reason to worry. Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next hundred years, thanks to an excess of greenhouse gas emissions from expended fossil fuels and a disintegrating ozone layer from Adam Lambert’s hairspray. As the EPA puts it simply: “Climate change is happening.”
Climate change predictions are so dire that teams of geo-engineers are pursuing dramatic and risky solutions to reverse the effects of climate change, to be used in the event that we reach a catastrophic point of no return. The Midwest has seen the most severe drought in a quarter of a century this summer.
No doubt there are some alarms going off about these issues. With mounting tensions in the Middle East and rising prices of oil, politicians agree that a solution to the energy crisis is needed, but disagree on what that solution would be. Some feel that the U.S. should loosen up its restrictions on drilling at home; others view alternative energy as a better long-term solution. Either way this issue can get complicated, which is why we’re breaking down what you need to know in order to cast an informed vote on the environment and energy this November.
+ How are we doing at cutting green house gas emissions?
Not so well. From the UN Earth Summit in 1992, when many of the world’s developed nations began to pledge to curb green house gas emissions, to 2007, green house emissions rose 38% worldwide, including 20% in the US. A more recent report estimates that greenhouse gas emissions have risen 29% since 1990.
Worse, emissions rose 6% in 2010—the largest increase on record—meaning that the trend isn’t slowing down. Emissions over the past decade have grown at three times the rate that they did in the 1990s, much like Snooki’s baby belly these past few months.
+ Where do the candidates stand on global warming?
Last year, Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he believed that humans were causing the world to get warmer, but by this past October, he changed his position. “My view is that we don’t know what is causing climate change on this planet,” he said, adding that reducing emissions was not the right course for the country.
President Obama believes global warming is a reality, and has made an investment in clean energy a key component of his “All of the Above” energy plan. That said, it’s clear that the prez has made other issues more of a priority during his first term: healthcare, Wall Street reform, just to name a few.
In truth, the candidates’ energy policy is the clearest indicator of what they plan to do about the climate crisis.
+ Okay, so what’s their energy plan then?
President Obama “doubled down” on green energy in his proposed 2013 budget, requesting $27.2 billion for the Energy department to fund green energy initiatives.
This is part of a larger trend for the administration, which touts that the “United States has nearly doubled renewable energy generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources since 2008,” and is calling for a “Clean Energy Standard (CES) would double the share of electricity from clean energy sources to 80 percent by 2035 from a wide variety of clean energy sources,” and a continued increase in domestic oil and gas production while investing in renewable energy initiatives by American entrepreneurs.
Mitt Romney supports dialing back regulations on the energy industry and maximizing the United States’ carbon-based fossil fuel production; as noted above, Romney has said that he doesn’t view reducing emissions as the right course for the country.
Most prominently, Romney supports building the controversial Keystone Pipeline, which sounds like something frat boy stoners would build, but is actually a pipeline that would connect oil deposits in Canada with refineries on the US Gulf Coast. Critics say the pipeline will threaten tons of environmental ecosystems across the Northwest and Midwest United States and potentially poison drinking water for millions. President Obama isn’t a fan of it.
Romney touts the boost the pipeline will give to US employment and energy-security, as the pipeline may reduce US imports from countries other than Canada. "I will build that pipeline if I have to do it myself," Romney said during a speech in April.
+ How can I get involved?
To get involved in the fight against climate change, reach out to an organization like the UN Climate Change volunteer program.