A National Environmental Policy?

The fact that our country has a National Environmental Policy Act means we should have a national environmental policy, and any national environmental policy is bound to take into consideration global warming, right?

Wrong. On two counts.

The U.S. is sorely lacking an updated environmental policy. It’s been over a decade and counting. With the EPA as example, and based on its condition as of late (see here, here and here), the climate’s looking grim.

As for a cohesive national policy that takes into account global warming’s causes and impacts? Think again. States have been infinitely more active than our federal government (and we thank them).

Presented with this gaping problem, Christopher Pyke and Kit Batten co-authored and released a paper yesterday entitled “Full Disclosure,” calling for an Executive Order by the next president to require consideration of global warming into federal policy decisions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). They argue the government has this ability and is already authorized under NEPA to exercise it.

The paper’s release was celebrated with an event hosting former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, Professor Jonathan Cannon, former EPA Administrator Carol Browner and co-authors Pyke and Batten. You can read a brief description here.

The description closes as Sec. Babbitt closed his keynote, and as I think its worth closing this post. The magnitude of global warming – its causes, its solutions, its consequences – is such that it forces a question so simple and straightforward, one that we often neglect and yet one that will ultimately define our country and our leadership: Does our government have the honesty and compassion required to talk to its citizens about their future?

Right now we don’t. But we should, and we could…

— Kari Manlove

6 Responses to A National Environmental Policy?

  1. Jim Bullis says:

    There was a chart from McKinsey International Group that detailed many things that could be done to reduce CO2, and the general point was that these were affordable things for the nation to do. This chart appeared here, but many of the details were illegible. Where is it?

    I find the form of the chart at the McKinsey site but the details are missing.

    How can a legible chart be accessed?

  2. A viable environmental policy would be a valuable part of a viable national energy policy. But I question whether Climate Progress is committed to either. First a national environmental policy that was tied to a national energy policy would requite an environmental assessment of proposed renewable energy solutions to the national energy problem.

    The renewable hagriography propounded by Climate Progress, Gristmill, Green Peace and other supporters of the salvation through renewable energy dogma holds that it is impossible in principle for renewable energy sources to have adverse environmental or human health consequences. Therefore environmental impact studies of solar or wind electrical generation are not required, nor are they desirable in the eyes of these supposed pro-environmentalists.

  3. Joe says:

    Charles — you could not be more incorrect.

    All energy sources have environmental impact, and all renewable energy sources must meet all federal and state environmental regulations. Ironically, the power sources that are exempt from such regulations are 1 — grandfathered coal plants, which do not have to meet national clean air standards, even though they are being life extended far beyond what their owners had suggested when they were given the grandfathering, and 2 — nuclear power plants, which are increasingly given expedited permitting after incomplete review.

    However, the working assumption of this website ( I can’t and don’t speak for Gristmill and Greenpeace) is that no local environmental impacts are anywhere near the existential threat posed to humanity’s health and well-being by global warming. Interestingly, as I have previously blogged, I believe that extends to radioactivity — I am infinitely less worried about what to do with nuclear waste than I am about the possibility of 80 foot sea level rise or mass desertification.

    You can try to ascribe dogma to those who don’t hold it. The only dogmatists I find in this debate are those who refuse to accept the broad understanding that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions require immediate action and a rapid transition to a sustainable energy economy. Ironically, those dogmatists claimed to be pro-life and pro-family, but most have shockingly little concern about the lives and families of the next 10 billion people to walk the earth.

  4. Joe I am pointing to a lack of environmental impact assessment for massive national wind and solar power systems not simple projects. What will the environmental impact if we cover thousands of square miles of Southwestern desert with solar arrays, or thousands of square miles of the grain plains with windmills. What would be the impact of thousands of miles of ultrahigh tension transmission lines? Name me one post on your blog that looks at those issues.

  5. Jim says:

    Great ideas, is there a place to elaborate on this all?