Opinion: Making ‘cents’ of the climate crisis

By Roksana Amid

Editor’s note: The following column was written in July as part of the Hofstra Graduate Journalism Program’s newest course, Advocacy Journalism.

Today’s climate crisis has many Long Islanders feeling confused, and many advocates who understand the full consequences of greenhouse-gas emissions furious. We hear all the time that we, as individuals, need to care for our environment by recycling and reducing our carbon footprints, but where does this leave big businesses and their share of responsibility for our environment?

All too often solutions appear worthy and credible at the surface level, such as a proposed cap-and-trade program or carbon-emissions tax, but such proposals present their own problems. Neither would eliminate the climate crisis, but rather would act as temporary check valves with a false sense of control over our impact on the planet.

Cap-and-trade programs set upper carbon limits which companies are not supposed to surpass, but such programs leave room for organizations to barter with and buy and sell from one another to continue polluting.

A carbon tax leaves even more room to allow them to pollute, as there is no set limit to carbon emissions produced by companies under such a regime. Businesses instead pay a tax that allows them to continue emitting carbon, regardless of present or future impact.

Under both cap-and-trade and a carbon tax, we would just be throwing money at a problem and delaying an inevitable future.

Atmospheric pollution has increased exponentially over the years since the start of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago. In 2021, there are now 420 parts per million emissions detected in our atmosphere. At our current rate, if we reach 450 parts per million of carbon in 2050, as projected, then climate change will be irreversible, scientists tell us.

Incentivizing the use of alternative-energy sources through tax credits and other means, both for individuals and businesses, is our best solution. There is still ongoing debate over which energy source is a better alternative, but it seems like almost anything is better than our current path.

Wind turbines harness the wind to generate electricity, making them a renewable and clean source of energy. There is solar energy, which uses energy emitted by the sun, which is also renewable and available even on cloudy days. Geothermal energy, found deep below the Earth’s surface, is more reliable since we can predict the output from a geothermal plant.

Pushing for alternative forms of energy such as these is an environmentally friendlier approach than excusing the continued use of fossil fuels. Mother Nature does not accept I.O.U’s, and neither should we.