The U.S. is currently the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. President Bush waived his hands at the issue last Thursday calling for a global meeting of the world’s top polluters, but remains at arms length from any concrete policy. Today a New York Times article described China’s global warming strategy, which promised energy efficiency measures but declines to accept any emissions caps…sound familiar? Yes, that’s right, in the U.S. we do the exact same. Thanks to municipal and state level initiatives such as GREENYC and California’s climate change program, we are slowly moving towards a policy that could begin to make a difference. Let’s face it though, until the federal government mandates a pollution tax, cap-and-trade program, or some form of legislative hold on emissions, we can not point fingers at China. In the end, if we add up our own greenhouse gas emissions over the past century and compare it to China’s, we’re definitely the biggest bully on the block.
Of course, in many ways China is the elephant in the room vis-a-vis global warming’s future – by 2050, if they continue to grow on the same path, China will be responsible for 22.9 gigatons of carbon, more then the global total today. But presently we need look no further then our own home, car, and office to start rectifying the situation. The power of the free market economy lies in our hands, in consumers’ hands. When we start driving less, installing CFL’s, adamantly avoiding bottled water, recycling paper, and generally living a more ecologically conscious lifestyle, the powers that be will take notice. Change is most powerful from the ground- up, from the house, to the supermarket, to the gas station, to the Starbucks down the street (bring your mug!).
We have to take responsibility of our own actions before encouraging (not blaming) others to take the plunge. My father always made me fish bottles out of the trash if I threw them away rather then recycle them. At my youth soccer games he would stroll around the field and pick up trash throughout the game. He scolded me in high school if I left lights on at night. At the time I figured, “what’s the big deal?” Now I admire and emulate my father, and I continue to screw up at times. He understood that every small piece adds up to make a difference.
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