The Big Picture: Activity on Climate Change is Heating Up

  • Published on April 22nd, 2009

Taking a step back makes the picture a bit brighter.Okay, it’s Earth Day and everything, so maybe I’m imagining things, but it certainly feels like the renewable energy/carbon emissions/let’s-fix-global-warming conversation has picked up steam dramatically in the last couple of weeks. I thought it might be nice to take a step back and review where things stand in Washington and elsewhere.

[social_buttons]First of all, President Obama heads to Iowa today to make a general pitch about focusing on renewable energy. The president has touted wind and solar power throughout his campaign and first months in office, and I see no reason to be anything other than extremely optimistic that his administration will continue to focus on those things.

That focus is now enhanced by a couple of interesting developments: first, the EPA listed carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases as a danger to “public health and welfare.” This would allow the EPA to regulate the gases under the Clean Air Act, although regulation is more likely to come from something resembling the American Clean Energy and Security Act (the Waxman-Markey bill). The House Energy and Environment Subcommittee is having hearings all week on this bill, and testimony on global warming and other issues will come from Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and on Friday, former Vice President Al Gore.

Clearly, this isn’t just political lip service.

The EPA’s Jackson, however, isn’t stopping at the House subcommittee. She will head to Sicily, where environmental ministers from the Group of Eight countries are meeting to discuss curbs on greenhouse gas emissions in anticipation of December’s larger talks in Copenhagen.

As far as I can tell, never has there been such a flurry of activity and attention paid to these issues, and upon taking it all in I find myself remarkably encouraged. Clearly, this isn’t a problem that gets solved all at once, and each individual story about a subcommittee hearing, or a presidential speech, or a certain international meeting doesn’t exactly inspire environmentalists to jump through the roof. Seeing the big picture, though, helps. The old refrain, that every day should be Earth Day, finally starts to have some meaning.

About the Author

Dave is a science writer focusing on science, health and the environment. You can find other examples of his work at Follow him on Twitter @davelevitan.