Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=126035
Story Retrieval Date: 5/20/2013 9:52:46 AM CST
The goal of the Waxman-Markey proposal, also known as “The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” is to create millions of green jobs, save consumers billions of dollars in energy costs, cut air pollution and enhance America’s energy independence. Here are some of the highlights of the proposed bill:
Reducing global warming pollution
Transitioning to a clean energy economy
Source: U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce
WASHINGTON— Environmental advocacy groups are rallying young people—and their social networking skills—to lead efforts in reducing carbon emissions.
“Through online tools, we can mobilize young people to petition, share their voices through photos and videos and make Congress look them in the eye,” said 28-year-old Jake Brewer, Internet director at Energy Action Coalition, a youth-led organization dedicated to creating a clean and equitable energy future.
Author and climate change campaign leader Bill McKibben delivered a similar message when he spoke at the Center for American Progress Tuesday, emphasizing the importance of youth and technology in the global climate change movement.
“We’re not going to win this thing one light bulb at a time,” said McKibben, who led the 2007 Step it Up campaign as a professor at politically active Middlebury College in Vermont. “If we’re going to win, it’s got to mean really changing the political dynamic here and around the world as quickly as possible.”
Youth-led environmental groups are gearing up for action next week, when Congress will hold hearings on climate change legislation proposed last month by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
Young people are in a unique position to help reduce carbon emissions, said Phil Aroneanu, youth program director for McKibben’s latest environmental initiative, 350.org.
Without change, younger generations face increased pollution and other ill effects of climate change, he said. But they also could become the entrepreneurs who take advantage of green jobs, alternative energy and the economic benefits of environmental progress, Aroneanu explained.
Focus the Nation, a youth-driven climate change campaign, will hold town hall events with congressmen across the country. Similarly, Energy Action Coalition urges youth to write letters to members of Congress in support of bold climate and energy solutions.
Youth voted in record numbers during last fall’s presidential election, said Brewer, because they wanted bold and just climate legislation. “They don’t want polluters to be winning with our legislation,” he added.
McKibben’s 350.org campaign, which takes its name from 350 parts per million, the level that scientists have identified as a safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, is working to unite the public, media and political leaders in using the Internet to coordinate a worldwide day of action on Oct. 24.
“Something is going to happen in the U.S. this year,” said Aroneanu, who explained that 350.org hopes to serve as a link between the Obama administration’s expected passage of climate change legislation and a global push for cleaner air during United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December.
McKibben said that young people need to go beyond the obvious—Facebook and Twitter—and figure out new ways to exploit the ability to connect via the decentralized World Wide Web.
“That’s what I’m doing every day,” said Aroneanu. “I’m using online tools to facilitate offline action.”
Despite the reach of the Internet, McKibben stressed the importance of on-the-ground community action—taking images and reports from events and uploading them online in order to “make them much larger than the sum of their parts.”
From pledging to bike 350 miles to piling up 350 pumpkins at a farmers market, Oct. 24 ideas are endless. The campaign hopes to produce a collection of photos and videos from around the globe that will send this message to world leaders: the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science and they must meet the scale of the crisis.
“Barack Obama can’t do it by himself,” McKibben said. “He doesn’t have the political space to operate in yet. That’s our job to produce it.”
350.org has been translated into 10 languages, features world maps and uses animation to illustrate the campaign’s mission without words.
Energy Action Coalition’s Brewer cited an added bonus: “Online tools are free and they are leveling the playing field. We don’t have a lot of money, we don’t have a marketing budget, we don’t have any huge figurehead. All we have is young people and their energy.”
Brewer stressed his coalition’s reliance on synergy—for example, making a video, putting it in a blog post and then tweeting that blog's link, reinforcing a message and getting it out to thousands of people to re-share with eachother.
“We’re really sort of pushing the boundaries of what the ‘net can do,” Aroneanu explained. “It’s really exciting, especially in places like Africa and South East Asia where the Internet isn’t as pervasive.”
While McKibben has called upon youth to lead 350.org, he urged all age groups to become aware of the economic impact of climate change.
“We’re going to have to be adult about the cost,” McKibben said. To change behavior, he said, the price of fossil fuel must be driven up in order to reflect the damage that it has done to our planet.
“But you’ve got to do it in some way that is politically palatable,” he added.
Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce whose legislation will be considered later this month, believes a new climate law would strengthen the nation’s economy by creating millions of green jobs, cutting pollution and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
The Waxman-Markey bill would implement a cap-and-trade market—placing a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide companies may release into the air and allowing companies who emit carbon at a level below the limit to trade its pollution “credits”—to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and require greater reliance on renewable energy.
In the end, McKibben said, climate-change negotiations need to be less between human beings —Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, or industry and environment. “The real negotiation is between human beings on one hand and physics and chemistry on the other.”