UK Carbon Cap Is Good But More Is Needed

It is hard to ignore global warming anymore. Unless you have particularly sensitive skin, you may not have personally witnessed the changes already occurring, but the impacts of global climate change are already sparking human action. For instance, a few weeks ago the U.S. Coast Guard announced that it would build a new base in Burrow, the northernmost town in Alaska. Due to the melting of arctic ice and the receding icepack, the Coast Guard has recognized the need to patrol waters that were previously completely covered in ice year-round. Commercial vessels are venturing farther north than ever before, and recent studies suggest that there could be arctic shipping lanes in as little as a decade. The fabled Northwest Passage might actually exist, after all.
For a while, the major push to combat global warming emanated from the realm of grassroots activism. But nations have begun to enact long-overdue legislation to limit their carbon output. Earlier this week U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown backed a bill to cut U.K. carbon output by 60 percent by 2050. The plan would call for a reduction of at least 26 percent by 2020 and outline five-year targets. Prominent environmentalists have taken a stronger stance, stressing the need for yearly goals and penalties for those not reaching these marks.
What is needed now is for more countries to join the United Kingdom and set carbon-cut goals. In the past, our own government has been resistant to such measures. The prime example of this inaction is the failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in the late 1990s. Congress at the time resisted the protocol, their main opposition resting in the fact that developing nations such as China and India were not included in the measure. Intended to set an example for the developing world by showing solidarity for the issue in the first world, the Protocol has done little to help the issue, and our inaction is partly to blame.
Because we have no way to enforce the carbon output of developing nations, the best way to influence a global reduction in carbon influx is to lead by example. The first world needs to take a heavy cut and lead the way for the development of new energy sources and cleaner uses of our current energy. The United Kingdom should be commended for this show of leadership and initiative. The issue so far has been heavy on words and rhetoric and light on writing or solid proclamation. Any legislation is a welcome sight. Our federal government needs to follow suit and enact its own legislation to match the United Kingdom.
Closer to home, the state of California, with 14 other states backing it, is suing the federal government for not allowing the implementation of tougher automotive fuel consumption standards. This might be the start of a lengthy process, and the resulting reduction in emissions could take a while to come to fruition. If California is serious about reducing automotive emissions, it should raise the tax on gasoline. Increasing the cost of gas will encourage less driving and more carpooling, leading to less carbon emission. A carbon tax for gasoline coupled with increased public transportation infrastructure is a better solution. It is impractical to make cars more efficient when we can discourage their use outright.
Ryon Graf is a fourth-year genetics major. He can be reached at rgraf@uci.edu.