It’s not so visible.
It’s not so imminently menacing.
And, for most of us, it is not so concerning.
But for some of us, global warming is a clear and present danger.
“We are rapidly approaching a point when it will be too late to prevent very serious climate impacts,” said Don Brown, an environmental ethics professor at Widener University School of Law.
Brown says as we pollute, people in Africa and Southeast Asia and elsewhere pay the price.
“Americans don’t understand that,” Brown said. “That greenhouse gases from Pennsylvania are contributing to potentially catastrophic suffering of other people.”
Brown and Hershey’s Michael Mark see the threat clearly and scratch their heads that most others do not.
“There’s not the political will to do anything about it,” said Mark, a former hydrologist with the National Weather Service and now with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. He supports a plan called carbon fee and dividend. It would add a fee at the source when fossil fuels come out of the ground. It would be passed on to customers. Those with larger carbon footprints would pay more. Those who use less could see a rebate. Mark equates it to the garbage bill that homeowners pay.
“The fossil fuel garbage goes up the smokestack or out the exhaust and we don’t see it so it doesn’t register,” Mark said. “We wouldn’t dump our trash on our neighbor’s lawn but we put the garbage in the atmosphere where there’s a cost to it.” A cost that polluters aren’t paying, Mark said.
But at what cost are polluters penalized?
Kevin Sunday is with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry who recently testified before the US Congress on this very issue.
“If the United States is too harsh to ratchet down emissions in this country, manufacturers will leave and go to a country that has less stringent regulations,” Sunday said. “The net effect would be more pollution.”
American pollution must be measured against American production, argues Gene Barr, Executive Director of the PA Chamber.
“Pennsylvania and the US still make stuff, more so than virtually any other country,” Barr said. “So there’s a direct tie to what your output is as a nation and the energy you use.”
Many American companies balk at unilaterally reducing their emissions while China and others pollute away undeterred.
“Trying to make sure that is a worldwide effort because CO2 emissions know no national boundaries is from our perspective the much more important thing to do,” Barr said.
While companies and environmentalists are debating the issue, most Americans are ignoring global warming. Brown blames energy-company-funded misinformation for polluting the debate and intentionally confusing citizens. He calls it a crime against humanity.
“There’ve been lies about the science,” Brown said. “Skepticism in science is a good thing but this is not reasonable skepticism this is actually a lie about the science.”
But Brown says it’s no lie that a green lifestyle has its advantages. He has solar panels on his Camp Hill home.
“Several months a year I get money back from the electric company. My average bill is $9 a month.”