Climate Change Discussion should be Front and Center
Christine Todd Whitman was governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001 and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003. She is president of the Whitman Strategy Group.
November 7, 2012
If nothing else, the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, both fiscal and physical, should put the issue of climate change front and center for President Obama’s second term.
We need an open and honest discussion about reducing emissions, securing chemical sites and clearing out needless regulations.
It’s unfortunate that Democrats failed to pass cap-and-trade to limit carbon emissions when they had control of both chambers of Congress, as getting it through the House is going to be a tough challenge now. Despite past resistance to federal cap-and-trade proposals, this solution should stay on the table. It is my hope that my Republican colleagues will see the wisdom of a market-based system for funding a public good — all very much Republican principles. We must be willing to have open and honest discussions about the need to reduce emissions, about what reasonable caps look like and about the effort it would take to achieve necessary changes.
Congressional action would be the best route, but I have been encouraged to see Lisa Jackson, Obama’s current E.P.A. administrator, seriously examining chemical site security. Under the Clean Air Act, she could act right now to reduce these significant risks if Obama lends his support. He should do so immediately — reducing the vulnerability of these facilities to terrorism is a matter of public safety.
Finally, I hope that President Obama follows through on his mention during the campaign of clearing out needless regulations that burden businesses throughout the country. Streamlining the regulatory process does not mean abandoning regulation or enforcement, but it can bring certainty to an often confusing, duplicative and expensive system, making compliance easier and more universal.
I wish President Obama all the best as he attempts to tackle these issues; it won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile.