Tag Archive for ‘Pollution’
The American Lung Association (ALA) reports that almost half of all Americans live in counties where air pollution routinely reaches unhealthy levels and can therefore make people sick or exacerbate pre-existing health conditions.
“Cap-and-trade,” whereby big polluters must pay to emit greenhouse gases against a capped total amount that is reduced over time—has been in effect across the European Union (EU) since 2005. Meanwhile, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Kazakhstan and South Korea have each set up their own national cap-and-trade programs to varying degrees of success, while regional versions have popped up within Japan, Canada and the U.S.
Americans still don’t recycle as much as they could. Nonetheless, the practice is already considered a huge success given that it keeps about a third of the solid waste we generate out of our quickly filling landfills and saves natural resources while generating much-needed revenue for struggling municipal governments.
Consumers who prefer less industrial alternatives can choose “green” or “natural” products that claim to be chemical free, but what actually goes into them is often unclear.
The best hope to date was 2009’s American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bill that called for the implementation of a “cap-and-trade” system to limit carbon dioxide emissions. That bill failed to pass, and most experts say it’s inconceivable to think the next Congress – or President Obama – would even contemplate strong climate or clean energy legislation.
Freight shipments are responsible for about a quarter of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. Heavy duty trucks are the biggest villains, accounting for 77.8 percent of freight transportation’s total. Running mostly on diesel fuel, they are also major emitters of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which are linked to a wide range of human health problems.
Mining disasters have grabbed a lot of headlines of late, but mines pose another insidious threat that tends to get little press attention: pollution of the nearby environment which, in turn, threatens the health of the people who live nearby. Environmentalists are particularly concerned about water pollution from mines.
The first dedicated national environmental agency of its kind, the EPA has been instrumental in setting policy priorities and writing and enforcing a wide range of laws that have literally changed the face of the Earth for the better. The EPA’s existence and effectiveness has also inspired scores of other countries to create their own environmental agencies along the same lines.
China passed the U.S. as the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter back in 2006 and today produces some 17 percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide output. Although the Chinese insist environmental trouble is part of the cost of developing a world superpower, China has started to take action.
For decades environmentalists have argued that economics should take into account the costs borne by such externalities in order to discern the true overall value to society of any given action or activity. The company or utility that operates the polluting factory, for instance, should be required to compensate the larger society by paying for the pollution it produces so as to offset the harm it does.