Thursday, May 26, 2011

California congressman urges global clearcutting of forests as way to fight climate change

A Republican congressman urged the State Department to look into subsidizing clear-cutting of forests around the world as a mechanism to fight climate change.

The suggestion by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., came Wednesday during an oversight hearing conducted by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

"Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?" Rohrabacher asked Todd Stern, the Obama administration's special envoy for climate change. "Or would people be supportive of cutting down older trees in order to plant younger trees as a means to prevent this disaster from happening?"

The proposal, if carried out, would actually exacerbate the warming of Earth's atmosphere because trees absorb huge quantities of carbon dioxide.

Stern pointed out that climate change policies around the planet focus on retaining forests for that reason.

Rohrabacher argued that nature is primarily responsible for climate change.

The continued warming of Earth's atmosphere is actually caused by the greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities.

Obama's speech to British parliament does not focus on climate change

President Barack Obama's speech to the British parliament Wednesday made mention of climate change, but did not focus on the issue.

Obama emphasized that the continuing build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere poses "dangers" and appeared to chastise China and India for being unwilling to commit to emission reductions.

"The successes and failures of our own past can serve as an example for emerging economies: that it's possible to grow without polluting, that lasting prosperity comes not from what a nation consumes, but from what it produces and from the investments it makes in its people and its infrastructure," Obama said to members of the House of Commons and House of Lords.

The administration has appeared to reduce the priority it gave to efforts to lower American greenhouse gas emissions since a greenhouse gas emissions bill died in Congress in 2010.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also recently backed off on several proposals to increase regulation of air pollution, control mountaintop removal mining, and set rules for the storage of coal ash.

Official White House photo of President Barack Obama speaking at Westminster Hall in London, May 25, 2011, by Pete Souza.

New Jersey to withdraw from regional climate change compact

New Jersey will withdraw from the ten-state regional compact set up by northeastern states to coordinate greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Gov. Christopher Christie announced Thursday that he would pull the Garden State out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative by the end of the year.

Christie labeled the RGGI a "failure" during a Trenton news conference.

However, a statement by the nine remaining members indicated that Christie's decision will not affect the compact's ongoing activities.

"With each state exercising its independent authority to achieve low-cost greenhouse gas emissions reductions, the RGGI market-based program has widespread support across the region and will continue," the statement said.

The member states of the RGGI aim to lower greenhouse gas emissions within their borders by ten percent by 2018. To do so, each state limits emissions from electric power plants. Regulated entities can purchase permission to pollute through auctions, with regulated entities in the region able to take advantage of pollution allowances made available in any of the member states.

Funds generated through the emission allowance auctions are used to fund clean energy projects. As of February about $860 million had been invested in these programs.

The RGGI's cap-and-trade program was the first market-based mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

New Hampshire, another of the RGGI's members, experienced earlier this year an effort by legislative Republicans to force the state's withdrawal from the compact. The attempt was blocked in the state senate.

New Jersey has been a member since 2008.