Hurricane Sandy has sparked a renewed discussion about climate change and what can be done to slow it. Now, one New York organization is going to court, hoping to force the federal government to take action. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
If there’s one thing Hurricane Sandy made clear, it’s that while combating climate change may be expensive, there's also a price to pay for inaction: billions in damages.
"These are serious numbers," said Michael Livermore, the executive director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University Law School. "We’re not talking about a few million dollars here, a little submerged land over there. We are talking about major metropolitan areas that are at risk. We’re talking about agriculture that’s at risk."
The Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law School has been pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to act, in part by capping vehicle emissions. Wednesday, the group will initiate litigation against the EPA. Its goal is to establish a cap and trade system on fuel.
"What we’re talking about here is not putting a cap on emissions from individual tailpipes," Livermore said. "That would be impossible. So what you do is, you cap carbon coming into the transportation sector, basically refineries and people who are importing refined fuels, and so it’s a small number of actors. You put a cap on the total amount that’s allowed into the economy."
Rather than create long gas lines, proponents say it will lead to cleaner-burning fuels, not to mention new government revenue.
The lawsuit targets emissions from all vehicles, not just cars and trucks, but also boats and planes, which, taken together, account for about a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States."
While the Obama administration has imposed new fuel efficiency standards on new cars, cap-and-trade would go further, and Livermore says the EPA can implement it under the Clean Air Act without Congressional approval.
"Of course there’s going to be a political element to this, but our hope is by engaging the courts, it’s going to create a little bit of space for the agency to just do the right thing, regardless of the politics," Livermore said.
It’s the kind of action necessary, advocates say, to prevent more scenes like the ones caused by Hurricane Sandy in the long run.