Environmental Law Blog
Carbon Footprint: Fact or Fiction?
Do you know that you can calculate your carbon footprint online? Just go to the Nature Conservancy's website at http://www.nature.organd follow the "Carbon Calculator" link. Whether you agree with the science supporting or weakening the argument for global warming, everyone can agree that Missourians should work to reduce air pollution. Air pollution causes health problems, such as respiratory disease, asthma, lung cancer, and irritation of the eyes, to name a few. Most, if not all, industrial and individual sources of carbon emit additional air pollutants. In fact, electric power plants are the single largest industrial source of some of the worst air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Both of these pollutants can cause severe damage to a person's respiratory system, sometimes resulting in death, and both pollutants cause acid rain.
Several states have taken steps to reduce their carbon emissions. In May 2007, Missouri Representatives Beth Lowe and Jenee M. Low referred proposed legislative bill HB 1268, or the Missouri Global Warming Solutions Act of 2007, to the Special Committee on Energy and Environment for research and review. The bill would amend the Missouir Air Conservation Law, located at chapter 643, RSMo., to include eight new sections relating to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, with penalty provisions. The bill is still with the Committee, but its drafters clearly had the reduction of Missouri's carbon footprint in mind.
In addition to state measures, individual citizens have taken notice of the carbon emission problem on a national level. To reduce your carbon footprint (and consequently reduce emissions of other harmful pollutants) you can follow these easy tips:
- Walk or bike instead of driving a car or taking the bus. Cars and trucks run on fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Automobiles account for more than 20% of the total carbon emissions in the United States.
- Host a telephone or video conference instead of traveling to a work-related meeting. The burning of jet fuel causes the release of carbon monoxide, which can have cardiovascular effects; nitrogen oxides, a powerful lung irritant; and volatile organic compounds, which can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, visual disorders and memory impairment.
- Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Each fluorescent light bulb that replaces an incandescent bulb saves 100 pounds of carbon emissions over the life of the bulb.
- Recycle, recycle, recycle. And, support the recycling industry by using recycled products as often as you can. Recycled glass, metal, paper and plastic use less energy to manufacture than products made from raw materials. Furthermore, recycled paper saves trees and, consequently, wildlife habitat.
- Eat locally. Shipping food across the nation results in excessive air pollution emissions. If you eat foods grown locally, much less energy is needed for your groceries to go from the source to your dinner table.
What do you currently do to reduce your carbon footprint? Do you agree with the science supporting or weakening the argument for global warming? Should the Missouri General Assembly more enthusiastically support the Missouri Global Warming Solutions Act of 2007, or should the proposed bill stay in the Committee?
3 Responses to "Carbon Footprint: Fact or Fiction?"
May 21, 2008 4:21 am
Check out this US Carbon Footprint Map, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint Map, illustrating Greenest States. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State energy consumptions, demographics and State energy offices.
May 24, 2008 1:36 pm
Thanks for the tips. What can we do about #4? I live in a city that is very weak on recycling. They have a couple of bins to take newsprint, magazines and cardboard. However, they let it get full and do not empty it so it becomes a place for litter to accumulate as people dump their "recycling". Is there a way to mandate recycling programs at the state level so that recycling centers must be present and must be actively maintained? Or are we at the mercy of the attitudes of local officials?
Reader poses an excellent question: What can Missouri citizens do to encourage stronger recycling programs in their communities and across the state? For better or for worse, neither the Missouri Department of Natural Resources nor the General Assembly has enacted any regulations or statutes, respectively, mandating recycling. Recycling programs are generally community issues that require a good amount of local support. You should try and drum up some support for a curbside or stationary recycling program in your community. Talk to your city counsel, mayor, city administrator, or county commission.
To change Missouri's recycling policy at the state level, you should first contact your legislator. If you are not sure who s/he is, check out Missouri's "Legislator Lookup." You must have the support of at least one, and preferably several legislators, before your idea can transform into state policy. These legislators will draft a bill, which is the first version of the potential state law. After committee investigations, debate, and research, the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives will vote on the bill. If the bill passes both houses, then it will reach the Governor's desk. The Governor will then have the option to sign it into law or veto it. A lot of time and effort must go into creating new legislation, but if you follow the legislative process, you can effect statewide change for Missouri's recycling future.
May 28, 2008 3:38 pm
There are many potential causes for the global temperature rise we are experiencing. Carbon dioxide emissions are only one of these many possibilities, yet large groups of people have insisted that this is the sole cause of global warming. While it is true that reducing consumption greatly reduces pollution of all types, the shift that would be required to reduce CO2 to levels that people claim would be acceptable would be phenomenal for our society. Even if we do everything we can to reduce individual CO2 emissions, the world population continues to increase and world energy consumption continues to rise drastically. Rather than put limits on CO2, I would favor taking steps to adopt policies designed to encourage limited population growth, thus stabilizing the population. Over the long term, this will have the greatest impact on all environmental problems caused by humans. I feel that our money and resources should be directed towards positive changes that we know will work- Such as health care and infrastructure improvements, rather than spend it all on a whim- That CO2 will destory us all. Some more food for thought: Our energy demand is not going to decrease simply because of CO2 limits. Rather, as a result of the possible mandates on CO2, utility companies are now proposing a massive expansion of Nuclear power generating stations, (of which no new plants have been proposed from 1979 until now in the U.S.). Would we as an environmental community rather have CO2 or high-level nuclear waste in our society?