By Isaac Lederman and Jeremy Zullow
Making the right decisions is often tough. How do you know when it’s the right time to ask that special someone on a date? How do you know whether or not you should take a big risk and go all in? The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision on a potential carbon standard however, is a no-brainer. The EPA should not hesitate to put in place a carbon standard. People around the world, and especially here in New Jersey, can’t afford any more pollution from power plants, let alone any more devastation from climate change. And if the EPA is worried about backlash — which it might very well be — it should realize that putting in place a carbon standard also makes political sense. It’s not just young people like us that care about climate change — more and more Americans are seeing the light and feeling the heat.
But first, a little bit of science. The Earth’s climate is changing. Power plants and other polluters are spewing gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These gases are trapping heat and making our planet not only warmer but also more dangerous to live on. And by heating up our only planet, these gases could very well trigger the release of other gases that would warm the Earth even more. Peat bogs, for instance, are emitting tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide due to this positive feedback cycle.
The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world. In 2013, higher temperatures in Brazil led to the worst drought there in 50 years. This terrible drought may end up costing Brazil some $8 billion. But climate change also has devastating effects closer to home here in New Jersey. We don’t need to remind anybody in this area about all the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Marines even had to come here to help the Garden State rebuild after the terrible storm. New Jersey may have lost as much as $70 billion, a figure that makes the damage caused by Brazil’s drought look like peanuts.
Of course, the state’s recovery wasn’t helped by the fact that politics may have entered into this process. Though it’s still unclear what exactly happened, reports from CNN and The Huffington Post suggest that Gov. Christie may have used relief money to promote himself, reward his allies and punish his enemies. Although New Jersey hopefully won’t remain as vulnerable to corruption, its coastal location will most certainly continue to make it vulnerable to superstorms.
Sadly, climate change isn’t the only threat facing New Jersey. Pollution from coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio continue to contaminate New Jersey’s water and fish and give residents asthma and lung disease, according to the Press of Atlantic City.
The good news is that there is one thing that can help solve all these problems. All the EPA has to do is put in place a carbon standard for power plants. The standard would limit how much carbon dioxide power plants can dump into the air. If the EPA did that, people here in New Jersey would be able to quite literally breathe easier. They could worry less about superstorms destroying their livelihoods, corrupt politicians being empowered and droughts hurting those around the globe.
Christie could also have the Garden State rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. RGGI is essentially a carbon standard of which states can choose to be a part. Making New Jersey a part of RGGI would not only create thousands of jobs but also reduce pollution and make the state less vulnerable to negative consequences of climate change. But given Christie’s fondness for blocking movement, especially along the George Washington Bridge, it seems pretty likely he’d block action on climate change too.
Putting in place a carbon standard could seem like another pie-in-the-sky idea that will never get anywhere. The fact of the matter, however, is that more and more Americans are realizing the danger posed by climate change. We see people pushing for action on climate change every day on campus. We’re part of a growing group of students pushing the University to invest more sustainably so that it can align its investments with its values and show that climate change is a moral issue.
And we’re not alone. More and more studies are showing that Americans are not only realizing climate change is happening but also becoming concerned about its impacts on their livelihoods. If anything, the EPA would be doing what the people want by putting in place a tough carbon standard. Of course, we can’t always expect people to act sensibly. Just ask our governor.
Isaac Lederman is the co-president of Students United for a Responsible Global Environment and is a Wilson School major from New York, N.Y. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeremy Zullow is the social chair for SURGE and a freshman from Malboro, N.J. He can be reached at email@example.com.