【英语财经】美国应带头推动碳排放交易市场 Leader_Global warming and US gridlock

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2014-5-9 07:14

小艾摘要: Whether you are suffering from another hosepipe ban in Nevada, or hitting deeper potholes in Chicago, global warming is affecting millions of Americans.Evidence of its impact is steadily mounting – a ...
Leader_Global warming and US gridlock
Whether you are suffering from another hosepipe ban in Nevada, or hitting deeper potholes in Chicago, global warming is affecting millions of Americans.

Evidence of its impact is steadily mounting – as is the US public’s awareness. Yet the will to take tough decisions is missing. Next month President Barack Obama’s administration will issue regulations to curb carbon emissions from US power plants. With Congress out of the picture, executive action is better than nothing. Yet unless the US can show it is serious about putting a price on carbon, it will have little chance of bringing the rest of the world along. The deadline is next year’s climate change summit in Paris. It is vital the US shores up its credentials before then.

The developing world will undoubtedly suffer a bigger fallout from global warming than most of the west. Countries such as Bangladesh confront the spectre of submergence while China, India and others are directly threatened by the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers. With or without US leadership, it is in their interests to take action.

Yet this week’s US climate change report underlines the growing price Americans are paying at home. The report shows that average US temperatures have risen by almost 2 degrees centigrade since 1895 with most of it taking place over the past four decades. The incidence of drought, big hurricanes and unusually heavy rainfall has soared.

So too has the price of dealing with the consequences. It cost more than $60bn to clean up after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 – a storm that nearly submerged large tracts of New York City. Now the US is spending billions more to upgrade its tidal barriers. Meanwhile, the cost of water in the drought-prone southwest keeps rising.

Yet Washington still refuses to act on the principle that prevention is cheaper than cure. Part of its reluctance comes from the boiling frog syndrome. Most Americans accept that global warming is happening. Yet they chafe when confronted with the higher bills they would have to pay to avert it. In a recent Gallup poll, voters ranked tackling climate change last out of 15 priorities. In 2009, Mr Obama tried and failed to push through a cap and trade bill that would have put a price on carbon. Politics makes it futile for him to go through Congress again in the near future. His only options are to use the White House bully pulpit to galvanise public opinion and deploy his executive powers to raise the cost of fossil fuel consumption. He has plenty of scope to go further on both.

Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate carbon as a pollutant. Next month the EPA will issue new rules limiting power plant emissions. It should follow up with curbs on refineries, cement plants and other polluters. Rule-based economics is certainly less efficient than market signalling. But if the framework is intelligent – and avoids picking technological winners – it can simulate many of the benefits of an actual carbon market.

Mr Obama must also do a better job of educating the public. Unfortunately, US environmentalists are fixated with stopping the Keystone XL pipeline – a decision Mr Obama keeps postponing.

In reality, Canadian oil sands will still arrive in the US by road and rail, and be exported to China and other markets. Mr Obama should approve the pipeline. But he should make it clear there will be an escalating cost to consumption of oil sands and other carbon-intensive fuels.

The White House lacks the power to set up a carbon market in the US – and the authority to tell other countries to do so. But the more Mr Obama acts as though a carbon market is inevitable, the sooner it is likely to happen.

无论是因内华达州再次出台的软管禁令(hosepipe ban,指禁止在水龙头上接橡胶软管为花园浇水、灌游泳池等——译者注)而倍感不便,还是在芝加哥街头撞上某个比往常更深的地陷坑,数百万美国人都体会到了全球变暖的影响。

显示全球变暖影响的证据还在不断累积,美国公众对这个问题的认知也在不断加深。不过,依然没有谁愿意来做出艰难的决定。巴拉克?奥巴马(Barack Obama)政府下月将推出限制美国电厂碳排放的规定。在国会(Congress)缺席的情况下,行政部门能采取一些行动聊胜于无。然而,除非美国能证明自己对碳排放定价是认真的,否则美国几乎不可能带动世界其他地区效仿。最后期限是明年的巴黎气候变化峰会。美国赶在那个期限之前建立信誉至关重要。

全球变暖让发展中世界受到的影响,无疑比大部分西方世界受到的影响更大。孟加拉等国笼罩在被淹没的恐惧中,而中国、印度等国则直接受到喜马拉雅山冰川消融的威胁。无论有没有美国的领导,采取行动应对这一问题都符合这些国家的利益。

然而本周美国的气候变化报告凸显出,这一问题让美国人在本土付出的代价也越来越高了。报告显示,自1895年至今,美国的平均气温上升了近两摄氏度,其中大部分升幅发生在过去40年中。旱灾、飓风以及反常暴雨的发生频率也大大增加。

救灾成本也大幅上涨。2012年的桑迪飓风(Hurricane Sandy)过后,清理成本超过了600亿美元。那场飓风让纽约市许多地区几乎被淹没了。如今美国正拿出数十亿美元来加固防浪堤。与此同时,在容易发生旱灾的美国西南部,水的成本不断上涨。

尽管如此,华盛顿方面仍然拒绝按照预防比治疗更便宜的原则来采取行动。这种不情愿部分源于“温水中的青蛙”症候群。大多数美国人接受全球确实在变暖的观点。但当他们看到为避免全球变暖、自己必须支付的更贵账单,他们就开始愤愤不平了。盖洛普(Gallup)最近的一项调查显示,在15个优先事项中,投票者将解决气候变化排在最末一位。2009年,奥巴马曾试图推动一项为碳排放定价的“限额和交易”法案,但他的努力失败了。眼下政局意味着,他近期再次向国会提交相关法案将会徒劳无功。他唯一的选择就是,利用白宫“头号讲坛”的地位来刺激民意,并运用他的行政权来提高消费化石燃料的成本。他在两方面都还有很大推进空间。

上月,美国最高法院的判决支持了国家环境保护局(Environmental Protection Agency)将二氧化碳作为污染物来监管的权力。环保局下月将推出新规,限制电厂的碳排放。该局应该接着推出对精炼厂、水泥厂和其他污染者的限制。用法规来改变人们的经济决策,效果肯定比市场信号要差。但如果法规框架设计明智(而不是选择技术上较优的方案),那么法规可以模拟真实碳排放市场的许多优点。

奥巴马还必须更好地教育公众。遗憾的是,美国环保主义者一门心思关注于阻止拱心石XL输油管道项目(Keystone XL pipeline)的开工建设。奥巴马一直推迟就这一问题做出决定。

事实上,加拿大的油砂仍将通过公路和铁路到达美国,也仍将向中国和其他市场出口。奥巴马应批准那个输油管道项目。但他也应明确表示,消费油砂和其他高碳排放燃料的成本将越来越高。

白宫无权在美国建立碳排放交易市场,也无权指示好别的国家这么做。但奥巴马越是用行动表现得仿佛建立碳排放交易市场势在必行,这件事很可能就会越早成真。

译者/阑天

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