The dollar is not getting any greener

by Angela Bacca

DECEMBER 6, 2007 9:25 AM

Rapper Jay-Z’s new video, “Blue Magic,” features scenes of New York City, clubs, cars and stacks of euros. That’s right, euros—not dollars.

The dollar continues to drop and the euro continues to rise. So what exactly is Europe doing right and what is America doing wrong?

Among other things, the European Union (EU) has taken the forefront on climate change. Not only do they recognize it as a threat to the planet, but also to human health, food supply and most importantly—the economy. They have enacted directives and other legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cleaned up polluted waterways and put restrictions on pesticides and other deadly chemicals that can harm the land and food supply. The plans set timelines, most within the next 10 years, and almost all of them mention how tackling these problems will save them stacks of euros in healthcare costs, agriculture and energy.

Last week, EU Commission scientists released free software for cell phones that allows members of the European community to track their own daily “carbon footprint.” It is a way of letting the average European know exactly how their habits contribute to climate change. It also allows the EU to keep track of the region’s habits and compare them to standards set by the Kyoto Protocol in order to help devise correct and effective legislation to help Europe prevent global meltdown. 

Here in America, our government has taken their own steps to prevent climate change—by extensively researching it to determine if it is actually a threat to us. Floods in the Pacific Northwest, Hurricane Katrina, wildfires in California, drought and nationwide extreme weather have cost us billions of dollars thus far. These natural disasters are not evidence enough of climate change, and its potential damage to our economy.

The clean up and reconstruction of these disasters are not the only costly concern. With all those toxins now in the air from perhaps the longest fire season in Southern California ever, more and more people will be at risk for acquiring respiratory illnesses from breathing in the smoke that has fused with the LA smog cloud. In the hurricane-ravaged south states, there is now a larger population of the unemployed and displaced—and that means more welfare costs for American taxpayers.

Earlier this week, Australia’s newly elected prime minister, Kevin Rudd, ratified the Kyoto Protocol within hours of being sworn in. The United States is now the only country involved that has not ratified it. Rudd has also been taking an active role in the United Nation’s Bali Conferences, which lays out a framework for newer and more active environmental guidelines that will come with Kyoto’s expiration in 2012.

Rudd won election in large part by putting the environment at the forefront of his campaign. When will our front-running candidates for the 2008 presidential election—Republican or Democrat—take a pragmatically urgent stance on climate change? Will any of them promise the American public that they too, will ratify the Kyoto Protocol? Why is no one running on a platform that puts the environment first—as it is fundamentally connected to welfare, healthcare, immigration and almost all the issues at the forefront of the campaign that afflict our struggling economy?

America’s after-the-fact response to climate change not only affects us at home, but those all over the world. If we do not push our elected politicians to take proactive leadership on climate change, not only do we place our dollars at greater risk, but we will be putting the rest of the world in jeopardy.

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