Carbon dioxide and other gases accumulate and trap heat from the sun's rays in our atmosphere. If the ecosystem was operating in balance, these gases would be absorbed and their levels would remain constant in the atmosphere. However, evidence is mounting that man-made pollution, created from burning fossil fuels, such as gas and oil, has kicked the Earth off balance.
Over 2,500 of the world's leading experts are telling us that global warming is already occurring. The hottest ten years on record have all occurred since 1980, culminating in 1998-- the hottest year ever recorded. With scientists predicting more violent weather, spread of infectious diseases and rising sea levels, we must act now to reduce our global warming pollution.
More than half of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S. comes from power plants and automobiles. For this month's countdown, here's one personal and one political action you can take to make a difference in the fight to curb global warming.
Replace halogen lights in your home and office with compact fluorescents. If everybody in the country took this same action, we could reduce our need for new, polluting power plants -- and our impact on the atmosphere.
The Worldwatch Institute reports, incredibly, that the 40 million halogen lights in use in the U.S. consume more electricity than all of the current compact fluorescent lights are saving. The 980 million compact fluorescents in use today save the same amount of electricity as about 100 average coal fired plants.
Write President Clinton (see below) and ask him to support tough fuel economy standards for sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
U.S. PIRG, the United States Public Interest Research Group, reports that each gallon of gas burned spews 26 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, the average car will emit more than 65 tons of this potent global warming pollutant over its lifetime whereas an average SUV or light truck will emit more than 95 tons. Unlike many other pollutants, there are no known technologies that effectively reduce carbon dioxide pollution in exhaust. The best way to reduce this pollution is to build more efficient vehicles that burn less gasoline.
Government standards that maximize automobile efficiency have reduced America's dependence on foreign oil, saved consumers money and reduced environmental damage associated with oil drilling, refining, and transportation. They have also been instrumental in reducing pollution associated with global warming. Automakers have used their influence in Congress to prohibit the updating of these standards to reflect new technology and the increases sales of SUVs and light trucks.
Earth Day began at the urging of Senator Gaylord Nelson, who asked the American people: "Are we prepared to say to manufacturers, "You must take that thing off the market or prove that the waste it generates doesn't pollute the atmosphere... Are we prepared to say no to the oil companies that they must not drill offshore? Are we prepared to develop a land use policy to say, "You must not destroy any more?"
A group of young college students led Environmental Action, Inc. in coordinating the first earth day events in 1970. Following thousands of teach-ins, demonstrations, and rallies, citizens demanded that Congress protect the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency was created. Congress passed the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. We must ensure that Earth Day in the new millennium brings the same kind of dramatic changes in our approach to saving the planet.
"Earth Day 2000 builds on the original spirit of Earth Day -- demanding that corporations and government do everything in their power to save the planet."
-- Christina Desser, Executive Director, Earth Day 1990
(feel free to print this standalone version)
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Month XX, 1999
Dear President Clinton:
Global warming is a serious threat to our planet. We need your help to stop it.
Light trucks and sports utility vehicles, like the new Ford Excursion, should be required to meet the same fuel efficiency standards as other passenger cars.
Making SUVs, mini-vans and other light trucks meet the same fuel economy standards as passenger vehicles would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 tons over the lifetime of each vehicle.
Please veto the transportation appropriations bill if it contains language which continues to freeze CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards.
I know that there is intense opposition from the auto industry that wants to keep doing business as usual, but we must take action now.
The Earth hangs in the balance.
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