According to reports, Trump’s administration may issue executive orders this week to reduce the scope of climate change policy within the EPA, including energy-specific measures that may offer disincentives for renewables. Two Cornell University experts on global and regional impact of climate change explain the dangers of cuts to environmental policies.
David Wolfe: Renewable energy benefits economy and environment
Wolfe, a professor of plant and soil ecology at Cornell University and chair of the Climate Change Focus Group at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, says the U.S. must lead the way in the renewable energy – a major economic engine of the 21st century – in order to remain a global power.
“For America to remain a global power we need to be at the forefront of the transition to a renewable energy future, which will be a major economic engine of the 21st century. This will also spare us from the mounting costs of coping with negative impacts of climate change on infrastructure, human well-being, and national security. If we don’t lead the way, other nations will fill the vacuum. China has expressed interest, and is already ahead of us in solar energy technology and sales.
“The evolution of modern civilization is largely a story of human ingenuity and energy transitions. Much of our economic growth during the 20th century is owed to the discovery and use of fossil fuels, but that was before we understood the negative impacts on our climate as our use of energy boomed. Now we are on the brink of another and inevitable transition, away from carbon-based energy sources and toward renewables.
“When Edison came up with the light bulb our political leaders did not attempt to squash his new technology to protect the unsustainable whale oil industry that had previously been lighting our homes and cities. When Henry Ford came up with an efficient way to manufacture cars he was not thwarted by political leaders obsessed with protecting a horse-and-buggy industry that could not meet new demands for mobility, and also was polluting our city streets with manure.”
Natalie Mahowald: Executive orders likely to result in warming temperatures, sea level rise
Mahowald is professor in Cornell University’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Faculty Director of Environment at the Atkinson Center for a sustainable future and an expert on global and regional impact of climate change, explains why disincentives for renewables will result in the U.S. being isolated in global efforts to lead energy technology and innovation.
“Efforts to back away from climate change mitigation in the U.S. are a step back from the Paris agreement and introduce the risk that other countries, notably China, with which we had a bilateral agreement, will also stop their climate change efforts.
“This could potentially put the world back onto a ‘business as usual’ climate change trajectory, which is likely to result in around a four degree warming by 2100, with almost three feet of sea level rise likely.
“Alternatively, if other countries continue to move to a more carbon-neutral source of energy, it may serve to isolate the U.S. in 20th century technologies for energy production, causing the U.S. to loose our technological and innovation lead.”
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