Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Disaster Needed for U.S. to Act on Climate Change, Harvard’s Stavins Says

The U.S. probably won’t take significant steps to curb climate change until an environmental disaster sways public view and prompts political action, Robert Stavins of Harvard University said.

“It’s unlikely that the U.S. is going to take serious action on climate change until there are observable, dramatic events, almost catastrophic in nature, that drive public opinion and drive the political process in that direction,” Stavins, director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said today in an interview in Bloomberg’s Boston office.

President Barack Obama failed to get legislation through Congress that would have established a cap-and-trade system of pollution allowances to control greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming. Instead, the administration is pushing regulations for carbon pollution through the Environmental Protection Agency, a far inferior approach, according to Stavins.

The agency’s rules aimed at curbing emissions from industrial polluters such as power plants aren’t “sensible,” he said. They don’t do much to reduce greenhouse gases and carry an “excessively high cost,” according to Stavins.

Stavins, an economist, is a member of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said in 2007 that scientists are more than 90 percent certain that humans are causing global warming. (read more)