The new law is far from perfect, but it is a major improvement over the ineffectual 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. Under that law, only five of the over 80,000 chemicals now in use have been banned or substantially restricted in use.
environmental policy Archives - Page 3 of 5 - State of the Planet
The investment in environmental clean-up often stimulates other upgrades that enable businesses to more effectively compete in a global economy. Moreover, a clean environment reduces illness and that reduces the need for expensive health care.
While the reduction and eventual elimination of fossil fuel use is a key element of such an economy, so too are the public policies and public-private partnerships needed to collect and reuse discarded products and packages. Bag bills and bottle bills can help develop these capacities. In most of the United States, these ideas have not taken hold and are generally seen as unneeded government intervention in the free market.
Among the academics I find a mix of optimism and dire pessimism. It’s a recurring theme—can we build an economic life that can preserve the planet, or is it already too late? My responsibility is to ensure that our students hear both perspectives.
What I am betting on is the growing sense of awareness and understanding of environmental issues among the people of the world. It could be that my personal perspective is a little warped. I’ve seen the environmental issue move from the outer fringes to the center of our political agenda.
Conflict is essential in the policy process, and understanding conflict better has the potential to assist policymakers and improve outcomes.
The president’s accomplishments are particularly noteworthy given the toxic political environment he must operate within. Flint, Michigan’s water crisis provides an example of how partisan politics is dominating federal environmental policy.
In some cases we do not understand the impact of human actions on the planet and we need to do more observation and analysis to understand those impacts. In other cases we don’t really know how to repair the damage once it has been done.
The issue comes down to willingness to pay upfront for improved systems, rather than pay to address environmental emergencies later on, when pieces of the system fall apart. Both water and energy systems carry user charges, but weak, ideologically-bound politicians refuse to allow these fees to grow to pay the capital cost of modern infrastructure.
The political consensus for sustainability that could emerge might be based on increased funding for the science of renewable energy, battery technology, energy efficiency and smart grids. It could also include incentives for private sector investment to commercialize new energy technologies, and tax expenditures that make it easier for consumers to adopt these new technologies.