US Policy on Global Warming In today’s activity, you will assume the role of a United States Senator. You will be working with a group of fellow Senators to develop policy related to how the US should (or should not) deal with global warming. This rest of this page sets the scene for the activity. Setting: Global warming has received a lot of attention in recent weeks. Senate leaders have asked small groups of Senators (that’s you) to develop bills related to what the US should do in response to global warming. Your Role: US Senator Task: Work with 4-5 other Senators to develop a bill for US global warming policy. You can choose to recommend dramatic action, no action, or any other national-level response. A good bill should have a strong rationale for why it is the appropriate course of action. Process: 1- You will begin in your Senator Home Groups. The people you are with right now make up your Senator Home Groups. 2-Before drafting your bill, everyone will visit a different Special Interest Group. At the Special Interest Groups, your job is to develop an understanding of this particular group’s perspective. You are not being asked to agree with the Special Interest Group—you just need to understand where the group is coming from. 3-Work with others at the Special Interest Group to complete the Special Interest Group Form. (Every individual is responsible for his/her own Special Interest Group Form.) 4- The Senator Home Groups will get back together. Each senator should share the perspective of the Special Interest Group s/he just studied. You don’t have to agree with the Special Interest Group perspective—you just need to present it to the other senators. 5-After hearing all the different perspectives, Senator Home Groups should discuss their own ideas about global warming. Ultimately, the group must write a bill outlining what the US should do in response to global warming. Some hints: Below are some examples of possible actions your group might recommend in the bill. Your group may propose a bill that limits CO 2 emissions by power plants, industries, or general transportation. Your group may require regulations on all new cars and/or annual emissions checks for older cars. Your group may decide that all government buildings and cars meet better energy standards. Your group might propose the use of alternative energy sources. Individual states could be required to gather a certain percentage of their energy from alternative sources. Your bill may propose incentives for individuals, businesses, or states that use alternative energy sources or reduce their CO2 emissions. Alternatively, your group may decide not to impose any regulations. Senate Bill 02132007-14 Title:____________________________________________________________ Sponsoring Senators:________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ Bill: _____________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ Name ______________________ Special Interest Group Form Special Interest Group: _______________________________________________ Main Points: 1. 2. 3. Evidence used to Support Argument: Strengths of Argument: Weaknesses of Argument: Personal Opinion: Special Interest Group: Advocates for Better Business (ABB) Who We Are: We represent business leaders from around the United States. We feel very strongly about the need to preserve the nation’s economic prosperity. The American way of life depends on businesses that can compete in the global marketplace. We work to make industry thrive thereby ensuring a healthy economy. Our Position on Global Warming: The so-called “facts of global warming” are far from fact. The planet earth has experienced changes in temperature since the beginning of time. There is no proof that the earth’s climate is changing any more than what it does through its normal cycles. Is the earth warming? Yes. But the earth goes through warming phases all the time. It also goes through cooling phases, which we expect to counteract effects of current warming trends. Global warming alarmists claim that humans are causing the earth to become warmer. We reject the notion that humans have anything to do with temperature fluctuations. Humans do release carbon dioxide (CO 2), but so does every other living thing. Releasing CO2 is a natural process; therefore, it should not be treated as a horrible pollutant. Even if the earth is warming, we must carefully consider the American economy. The use of fossil fuels, which are said to contribute to global warming, is a part of life and business in America. To suggest that we can just stop using these fuels is ridiculous. Consider this: a Bill is created that restricts industry’s use of fossil fuels and CO 2 emissions. What will happen? Every item you purchase will become more expensive. Why? This regulation will affect production costs, transportation costs, marketing costs, etc. It also means that many American businesses would be forced to shut down. This, in turn, would cause millions of Americans to lose their jobs. Are we willing to risk the economic stability of the greatest nation in the world and the personal experiences of every American? Such drastic consequences should not be based on questionable science and a liberal media which is pushing the story of global warming just to make news. Recommendations: The US government should pass legislation that protects business from the dangers of irresponsible environmental policy. No mandatory regulations should be imposed on CO2 emissions. The Senate could encourage the development of alternative fuels or provide tax breaks to businesses involved in reducing emissions, but these should be voluntary programs. The businesses which support American workers and feed American families should not be the target of unjustified regulation. Special Interest Group: Automobile Consumers United (ACU) Who We Are: We are a consumer advocacy group. Our mission is to protect the rights and interests of American consumers, particularly automobile consumers. We represent Americans who depend on modern automobiles in their lives. Our Position on Global Warming: We appreciate the significance of global warming, and understand that the government needs to explore options for limiting CO 2 emissions. CO2 emissions have been linked to rising global temperatures, and we do not reject this conclusion. However, the government needs to be very careful about how they choose to address the issue. It is fact that the vast majority of Americans rely on cars and light trucks for their transportation needs. This reality is not going to change, and it shouldn’t. The automobile is a part of our lives. Government attempts to restrict automobile emissions will have the effect of harming most American consumers. Proposals have been offered to reduce automobile emissions, but we find these suggestions unsatisfactory. The first option to reduce greenhouse gases would be to use fuel, for our existing transportation, that doesn’t emit as much CO 2 . This could be accomplished by using ethanol as a gasoline substitute for cars. Unfortunately there is a maximum amount of ethanol (10-12%) that can be used in most cars without causing mechanical problems. Hybrid vehicles, which use electricity or other gasoline substitutes represent another option. However, hybrid vehicles can cost almost twice as much as their non-hybrid counterparts. These kinds of dramatic increases in family budgets can not be absorbed by most Americans. If the government wants to address global warming, then it must start with its own fleet of vehicles. Local, state, and national agencies purchase thousands of vehicles every year. Before requiring individual citizens to change the vehicles they drive, governmental agencies ought to clean up their own fleets. If the government demands lower emission vehicles, then the technology will ultimately become more affordable for the public. Until that happens, no changes should be made for individual citizens’ transportation needs. Recommendations: The Senate should work to ensure that consumers are not hurt by global warming legislation. If the government wants to enact reform, they should start with the vehicles they purchase and maintain. Special Interest Group: Global Economy Watch (GEW) Who We Are: We are a group of economists, concerned citizens, and industry representatives. We are especially concerned with the standing of America’s economy in the world and relationships between the US and its global neighbors. Our Position on Global Warming: Global warming is a problem. We recognize that a great deal of consensus exists within the scientific community regarding the significance of global warming. The evidence strongly suggests that human activities related to the release of greenhouse gases contribute to a warming climate. All governmental agencies need to make an important observation before suggesting any new policies regarding these issues. GLOBAL warming is a GLOBAL problem, not a national problem. Therefore, any attempts to solve global warming at a national level are destined for failure. Global warming must be dealt with at an international level. The United States is one country, and although the US contributes to global warming, it is one of many. Imposing a set of regulations on US consumers, businesses, or citizens will likely have dramatically negative effects on the US economy and very little effect on the global climate. If this were to happen, US citizens would suffer as countries with much larger populations (like China and India) continue polluting the atmosphere. In addition, as we move into the twenty-first century, many developing nations in Asia, Africa, and South America are rapidly growing in industry and transportation. These nations can grow unchecked while the US economy withers. If the US wants to do something about global warming, it cannot do it alone. Any solution for a GLOBAL problem must involve nations across the globe. Everyone has to work together to bring about change. If only one or a few nations make changes, they will suffer at the expense of others. The founders of the US and all who have come after did not build the strongest nation in the world only to fall because of a misguided national policy. Recommendations: The US Senate must work to ensure that proposals to address global warming are not set up to the detriment of just our country. Any efforts to affect climate change should be brought through agencies such as the United Nations. International action may resolve this environmental issue, but the actions of a single nation cannot fix a world-wide problem. Special Interest Group: Planet Protectors Who We Are: We are a group of citizens, scientists, and educators concerned about the future of planet earth. We work to protect the earth from human activities which threaten to throw the planet out of balance. Our Position on Global Warming: The greatest challenge facing our planet is global warming! There is no doubt that humans are causing the most dramatic climate change in the 4.5 billion year history of the earth. Human emissions of CO 2 and other greenhouse gases continue to rise unchecked. If this trend continues, the earth’s temperature will rise to levels that lead to 1) melting of ice caps, 2) flooding of coastal regions, 3) changes in global weather patterns which will lead to drought and famine, 4) the loss of millions of plant and animal species, 5) and untold consequences we haven’t even imagined yet. The United States must take responsibility for the huge role it has played in global warming. The US has a responsibility to lead other nations to a solution. The US accounts for less than 5% of the world’s population; and yet, US citizens and businesses are responsible for over 20% of global greenhouse emissions. As a country, the US uses more fossil fuel and other resources and emits more pollution than any other country. In fact, the US uses almost twice the fuel used by any other country even though other countries have much larger populations. We are not trying to bash the US, but the fact of the matter is that the US is the world’s richest country and the last remaining super-power. This country is also the world’s biggest polluter and has done more to contribute to global warming than any other nation. Therefore, the US must adopt policies to reduce its own use of fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases. By doing this, the US will lead the way in combating global climate change. If we do nothing, we doom ourselves to a terrible future. Recommendations: The US Senate should pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a comprehensive fashion. Planet Protectors recommends the following measures. 1- Mandatory improvements in the fuel efficiency of all new cars sold in the US. 2- Mandatory improvements in the fuel efficiency of all factories, power plants and other industrial facilities in the US. 3- Government investment in alternative fuels research. This ought to be funded by a $.05 tax on every gallon of gas sold in the US. 4- Tax breaks for every American family which purchases a hybrid vehicle. 5- Tax breaks for all businesses which reduce greenhouse emissions through new technology. 6- Authorize construction of new nuclear power plants in all regions of the country in order to shut down coal power plants which produce huge amounts of CO 2. Special Interest Group: Scientists for Sound Decisions Who We Are: We are a group of scientists concerned about how policy makers and politicians use (or not use) scientific data. We represent scientists from all scientific disciplines including biology, physics, environmental science, geology, and chemistry. Our mission is to promote the use of high quality scientific data for policy decisions. Our Position on Global Warming: There is near consensus among scientists across the planet that global warming is a real threat. In recent international meetings, the scientific community has concluded the following: 1) Greenhouse gases such as CO2 trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere. 2) Global temperatures are rising. 3) Human activities related to the burning of fossil fuels releases large quantities of CO 2. 4) Increasing levels of greenhouse gases like CO2 are directly associated with global temperature rises. It is true that the earth’s temperature has fluctuated a great deal over its 4.5 billion year history. There are natural cycles of global warming and cooling. However, the current climate changes are not likely part of these broader natural cycles. There are credible reports suggesting that not all scientists agree with these conclusions. This is technically accurate, but most mainstream scientists agree that the evidence available support these conclusions. It is true that some scientists have disagreed with these conclusions, but many of these individuals have unique backgrounds such as close associations with businesses which profit from greenhouse gas emissions (like oil companies). Global warming is an issue of concern because the consequences could be significant. Even very slight changes in temperature can have drastic impacts on the planet. Changes on the order of 2-3º C could trigger very large climate changes. Melting ice caps can lead to widespread flooding. Higher ocean temperatures can lead to massive shifts in weather patterns. Changes in seasonal patterns will lead to stress on many species of plants and animals. For instance, warming in the arctic already threatens species such as the polar bear. It is likely that polar bears could become extinct within 10 years. As scientists, we can not say what the best course of action is. However, we provide the best evidence possible based on the available data. It is very important for policy makers to weigh the evidence provided by scientists. Politicians should not ignore scientific results just because they may not support a particular political solution. Recommendations: We will not make a specific policy recommendation, but we do recommend that the US Senate carefully consider the scientific evidence provided.
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