Speakers urge new green laws
The federal government must pass stricter legislation to prevent further greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, law professors said Monday at a climate change symposium in the University Hilton.
"The federal government has been largely absent from the scene when it comes to regulating carbon emissions," University of Alabama law professor William Andreen said. "Many states have tried to build that regulatory void by taking some initial steps… to address greenhouse emissions…. (Congress’) inaction has prompted the states to act."
A "one-size-fits-all" approach by the federal government is not a feasible plan to gradually lower emissions, Andreen said. Legislation by individual states to lessen the amount of greenhouse gases has been a more effective strategy since states have taken a more stringent approach to combating pollution than the federal government, he said.
Andreen called the magnitude of the damage inattentive legislation will cause to the environment "without parallel."
While the federal government is largely absent from regulating pollution emissions, Andreen said politicians are also not doing much to cap industrial emissions.
"Many of the state programs are largely symbolic, giving… politicians just a chance to garner praise while doing little in the way of pain to carbon-emitters," he said.
While the federal government has not done much in the way of enacting feasible legislation, it should start by planning how to implement a plan when it emerges, Duke University law professor Chris Schroeder said.
"If we don’t have good, sound implementation strategies, the best- designed program in the world won’t work, and we have lots of examples of poor implementation from our past," Schroeder said.
Schroeder said the federal government should give its environmental agencies more power to enforce environmental legislation on industries that emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
Historically, the Environmental Protection Agency has not been able to enforce control on emissions goals because it lacked governmental power and has been understaffed, he said. The lack of understanding by the media to report the severity of environmental problems is also a problem, he said.
The political atmosphere in Congress is also another reason for environmental legislation to be passed now instead of in the future. Schroeder said the lack of predictability in politics is a setback for environmentalist policies that would affect future generations.
"There’s a cost here we have been paying since the Industrial Revolution… it’s a cost we can’t keep avoiding," Schroeder said.