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Jan 262010

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Green news is just streaming out these days, like a ticker tape parade, but without the paper waste.

Carleton College, in Northfield, Minn.

Carleton College, in Northfield, Minn.

First on my notes, the College Sustainability Report Card people have issued their 2010 list of schools making A’s for green initiatives. Actually, no campus has earned an A yet, but 27 are  getting A-’s for a range of innovative efforts. My native Minnesota has propelled Carleton College, Macalester College and the University of Minnesota into the top ranks. Uffda, that’s exciting.

Depending on your roots and alma mater, you’ll likely find a campus to cheer on. The sheer diversity of activities being launched — from eco-peer training to building retrofits to food co-ops — makes our mouth water for local food and a pesticide-free place to eat it. Kudos to the Gen Y’ers and administrations behind all this.

Now a word about that younger generation. No matter what our age, we can all do something for ourselves and our descendants. We can reduce carbon pollution. Every step we take counts, from our backyard garden to our carpool. But in the U.S., we need to take some BIG BITES out of our out-sized contribution to global warming. And we can do that by supporting cap and trade legislation.

As the President prepares to deliver his State of the Union address, I am waiting for the word: We need action on climate change. Year two. Let’s get on with it.

I know, it’s not perfect legislation, those bills that have been hanging around Congress, gathering mildew and exemptions for polluters. They have prompted vicious partisan battles. (But then hasn’t everything pending in Congress prompted vicious partisan battles?)

But we need something on the books. It could bring fundamental change, or kick the ball in that direction.  If Congress moves in the spirit of creating a greener future instead of looking for ways to insert loopholes for special interests, this legislation could help clear the air, trigger other countries to do the same and help slow climate change.

A politician once promised a chicken in every pot. Not to mix food metaphors, but this law could do much more. It could mean keeping salmon on your plate, weather catastrophes off your doorstep and clean water available for your children.

On one level, cap and trade is pretty simple: Fossil-fuel burning businesses will start paying for their pollution. They will be penalized. Clean energy and clean tech businesses will not. This will have the effect of tugging the economy in the right direction. And because it will be staged in, it does not create economic shock. Many argue, in fact, that it will do the opposite, creating green jobs, spurring innovation and curtailing wasteful practices.

Fossil fuel industries are not happy about this. Duh.

We could spend another 1,000 words on this topic. But I’d like to refer you to someone who can explain it better, an expert at the Environmental Defense Fund.  Watch this video, and if your kids are old enough to read a 6th grade textbook, share it with them. It’s their future.

The Facts of Cap-and-Trade from Clean Energy Works on Vimeo.

By the way, if you’re worried that cap-and-trade legislation is not sufficiently bipartisan, know that the EDF works with many major corporations that support cap and trade as a way to reduce carbon pollution. Many on the left believe a simple carbon tax would be more efficient. This video also notes that it was a Reagan-era cap and trade measure that brought acid rain under control, verifying that this market solution can work.

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