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Editorial: Offset impact of emission agreement

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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A bilateral agreement was made this week between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping concerning the reduction of carbon emissions. China and the United States, who both rank as the highest emitters of greenhouse gasses in the world, have set a goal to reduce carbon emissions to 26 percent to 28 percent of 2005 levels of carbon emissions over a 15-year period. It is evident from this discussion with Chinese diplomats that Obama’s focus for the remainder of his presidential term will be on climate change.

The goals set from these discussions have prompted an important development in the fight against global climate change. To reduce carbon-dioxide emissions to such a fraction of what they are currently will be crucial to prevent further damaging of the Earth’s atmosphere.

According to NASA reports, carbon-dioxide levels in the air are the highest they have been at in more than 650,000 years. These extremely high levels are dangerous, but they can be reduced if both the United States and China can follow through with these agreements.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes it is in the United States’ best interest to cooperate with China to become an example worldwide of environmental advocacy. The goal to cut emissions so drastically raises some questions, though, primarily when it comes down to how the United States plans to accomplish this, what economic consequences it may or may not have, and will the desired goal be enough?

How Obama will move forward in mandating this agreement has yet to be announced, but it will likely come in the form of several environmental bills to be signed into law, and that will be difficult to do with a U.S. Congress that just recently became dominated by Republican lawmakers.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will become the Senate majority leader and will definitely be active in trying to thwart Obama’s environmental plans. In McConnell’s recent victorious campaign in Kentucky, he promised his constituents he would protect the prevalent coal industry in his home state.

McConnell and the rest of the Republican Party have opposed measures that inhibit domestic industries for the sake of environmentalism. Republican lawmakers in states filled with coal and oil industries will likely block any measure proposed, unless a bipartisan agreement is somehow made in Congress.

Republicans may not be in favor of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, but the general public is. According to an exit poll conducted by Pew Research Center, 58 percent of Americans view climate change as a “serious problem.”

The compromise between Obama and the Republicans will most likely have to include incentives for both parties without economic losses for states that depend heavily on industries that produce large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Industries may be offset temporarily by having to buy and install eco-friendly equipment or if they experience a decline in efficiency because of new regulations. This short-term problem could very well be fixed if the bill passed includes federal tax credits as an incentive for cooperation.

The consequences for industries because of the agreement between Obama and Jinping may seem large in the short term, but in the long term, this will definitely be crucial for the prolonged health of our planet.


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