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Energy symposium debates actions against global warming


The Clean Power Plan policy, which is the subject of the energy symposium, was introduced by the Obama administration in June 2014. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

Anthropogenic climate change is currently one of the biggest dilemmas facing humanity, and scientific consensus agrees that it’s time to act.

UH hosted a panel of speakers in the Student Center on Tuesday to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The panel was held as a part of UH Energy’s annual Energy Symposium series.

Panelists discussed issues regarding the plan’s legality and scope, which the EPA proposed in 2014 as an effort to lower the amount of carbon dioxide the U.S. emitted.

“Climate change is impacting nations that had nothing to do with contributing to the problem, yet they are suffering from rising sea levels and floods,” Al Armendariz, panelist and deputy regional director of the Beyond Coal Campaign, said.

Armendariz’s fellow panelists included Jeffrey Holmstead, partner at Bracewell LLP, John Hall, assistant vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, and Mark Walters, senior counsel for Jackson Walker LLP.

The discussion involved a summary of previous climate policies in the U.S., The Clean Power Plan preceded the Paris Agreement—when 185 nations signed a treaty agreeing to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions starting by 2020 in an effort to combat climate change.

The Supreme Court halted the plan on Feb. 9 for judicial review as it faced both legal and political opposition.

“What we need to do is to put in place policies that will lead to technology developments that will allow people to use that resource to produce the goods and services that they want in their country and to do it in a way that has lower carbon emissions, and the Clean Power Plan forecloses that as a practical measure,” Holmstead said.

Citing fears of job loss, economic impact and potential ineffectiveness, 27 states refused to implement the plan after its proposition. Of those states, 24—including Texas—are suing the U.S. to prevent the federal government from implementing the Clean Power Plan.

Holmstead said the best way to address this kind of federal overreach was to rely on technological innovations rather than government action.

“Literally by regulatory fiat, the EPA can take business away from power plants that it doesn’t like, to power plants that it does like, mostly wind and solar,” Holmstead said.

He suggested putting policies in place that would lead to technological developments of resources with lesser carbon emissions.

“I’m honestly a little worried about global warming,” Biomedical sciences sophomore Rishi Wagle said. “I heard that violent storms would become more frequent and get strengthened by global warming, and I’d hate to imagine what would happen if a stronger Katrina or Ike came along.”

Although many students agree that it’s difficult to decide how much the global community should do to alleviate this problem, Wagle is optimistic.

“I think it’s good that the United States is doing something to combat climate change before it’s too late,” Wagle said.

The energy symposium continues on Nov. 29 with a discussion on fracking and shale development in Texas.

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