Experts agree that there are several scenarios by which mankind may cease to exist. The first is nuclear warfare, which the international community has attempted to address through the Nonproliferation Treaty and subsequent treaties regarding the testing of nuclear weapons.
The second is a worldwide medical epidemic. Currently the AIDS crisis is being addressed by philanthropic organizations and monetary donations from nations around the globe.
Of course this is not enough to curb the spread of the disease, but most nations do consider it to be a problem worth spending money on.
The third way by which mankind may be obliterated is through an environmental disaster. And yes, the world has attempted to come to terms with this threat through global initiatives, including the Kyoto Protocol to limit emissions. But in a maneuver that lacks foresight and ignores the responsibility of our government for future generations, the United States has failed to address the issue of global warming.
The refusal of the U.S. government to address global warming and all the implications of such a refusal are most evident in this year’s presidential election. Although both sides have their environmental rhetoric handy in pamphlet form to feed to the masses and to appease the weakened environmental lobby, neither candidate has made a sincere effort to present his environmental policy to the citizens.
The extent of environmental discussion and debate has focused on American independence on foreign oil. Although this is a worthwhile topic and one that must be addressed for the good of the nation, it has economics as its prime motivator. The economic implications of foreign dependence on oil override the environmental impact that our oil consumption has on our air. The result of this focus is an American public that associates oil with the Arab world, dollars per barrel, and its impact on the stock market’s performance.
The ideology of capitalist environmental policy has led to the degradation of our air quality and a rise in global temperatures that may one day lead to the destruction of the human race. Does this sound like an extreme view and liberal propaganda for environmental policies that will only hurt the American taxpayer as well as American businesses?
It may sound that way to the uneducated and irresponsible masses, but it is nothing short of the absolute truth. The quality of the natural environment of the earth is a serious matter and deserves serious discussion in the American political forum.
The American psyche must change from one that associates every environmental problem with its economic implications. Economics are important and affect us in the most direct way, but the environmental disasters that could result from the neglect of our leaders may end up killing our children and grandchildren. Even now, the temperature of the earth is rising at an alarming rate.
Some world environmental experts agree that within our children’s lifetime, the average temperature of the globe will increase somewhere between 2.7 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the ice age, the average temperature has only risen between five and nine degrees.
Rising temperatures have enormous effects on both weather patterns and on the heat waves that are killing more elderly citizens in the United States than ever. Lower winter temperatures allowed West Nile Virus mosquito larvae to survive the winter months and subsequently infect and kill a number of people.
If candidates claim to have the good of the American people in mind, then they ought to make the environment one of their top priorities. A smart environmental policy would include higher standards for the fuel economy of automobiles and strong action against American businesses to reduce their emissions and end the grandfathering of outdated emissions standards. It would not only call for specific reductions in the levels sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury, which the Bush Clear Skies Act aims at, but it would also attack carbon dioxide emissions, the most significant contributing factor to global warming. A strong environmental policy would not back down to the automobile manufacturers or to businesses.
However, the four-year term of the American presidency is not the most effective in providing environmental reform. This may be one of the most serious flaws to our own system of government. Given the nature of environmental disasters, four years is not enough time to clearly see the effects of an incumbent’s environmental policies. Global warming is a trend whose effects remain hidden until disaster strikes.
Throughout this campaign season, we have heard both President Bush and Sen. Kerry speak about their willingness to protect the American people against terrorist attacks.
Having strong environmental policies is also necessary to protect the American people. Yet it is not protection from an outside source, but rather protection from our own wastefulness of resources and our own ignorance of the impact of global warming.
The rhetoric surrounding the war on terror is based on the premise that we must constantly be on the watch and kill the terrorists before they have the chance to attack us. Although the concept of preemptive strike may not be the best policy in international affairs, in the context of environmental affairs, it is undoubtedly the best strategy. Before an environmental disaster strikes, we must take action and preemptively tackle the root causes.
A strong leader for America must take environmental issues seriously and make a sincere effort to educate his constituents on the seriousness of the current situation. Although virtually absent from campaign agendas and media coverage, global warming is an increasing problem that the American government continues to ignore.
Other nations are making more sincere attempts to curb their own emissions, many through the Kyoto Protocol. Certainly Kyoto has its own flaws and America does not necessarily have to be a party to an international agreement to reduce its emissions and ensure the safety of Americans.
During this election year I urge voters to explore the environmental policies of Kerry, Bush and candidates for other offices and to consider how their respective policies address carbon dioxide emissions, the most significant contributor to global warming.