A chorus of voices: more greenhouse gas cuts

After yesterday's release of data about the major emitters of greenhouse gases in the U.S., numerous environmental groups called for action to reduce the emissions.

Today, the World Resources Institute released a report showing that, while the U.S. government has pledged to reduce emissions to a level 17 percent below 2005 emissions, and to do it by 2020, we're not on track.

Indeed, without new actions, emissions will increase, the Institute predicted.

But policy-makers have the tools they need, said Andrew Steer, president of the Institute. Even without Congressional action, which, given the current divisions, would be tough to get.

“President Obama has put tackling climate change high on his agenda. Our analysis shows that with strong leadership and ambitious action the administration can make a significant dent in U.S. emissions,” said Andrew Steer, president of the institute, in an email. “Meeting the 17 percent target would signal that the U.S. is serious about climate change at home and would enhance U.S. leadership on the international stage.”

The researchers concluded that the first step should be to enact new standards for power plants. That would likely be a tough sell, given that many power plants have spent a lot of money retooling their plants to decrease emissions. But extra pressure could come via the  strong health connections -- some power plant pollution also exacerbates lung and heart problems.

The report also recommends reducing non-energy sources of emissions, such as the  hydrofluorocarbons that are commonly found in refrigerators and air conditioners. Alternatives are being developed, but perhaps not quickly enough.

"Reducing emissions will benefit U.S. citizens and encourage other countries to make greater reductions,” said Steer. “It’s clear that the longer the U.S. waits, the harder – and more expensive – it will be. The Administration has the tools. We look forward to seeing what steps they take to shift the country to a low-carbon pathway.”

In addition, methane emissions from natural gas could be limited, and energy efficiency can be increased in everything from industrial operations to household appliances.

Of course, residents can take steps right now by simply stopping a few things -- such as using the clothes dryer, and spending so much time in the car, and leaving on all the lights in the house.

I'm a member of the Delaware Valley Sustainability listserv, and I love to read the philosophical discussions about what we have to change.

One recent post made mention of  a new vehicle that gets significantly better mileage that most cars now on the market. This was presented as a step forward.

But then came a somber response, noting that much more is needed that a high-mileage car. "We have become used to the convenience of our energy slaves," the person wrote. "A higher mpg car brings the message we can continue to do the miles. It also feeds directly into Jevons paradox, which showed, 150 years ago, that greater efficiency always leads to greater consumption unless the cost of consumption increases faster than efficiency."