Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Time to act on climate change

With record high temperatures in the United States last year and a nation still reeling from Superstorm Sandy, President Barack Obama seized the moment by underscoring in his inauguration speech last week that he intends to make dealing with climate change a national priority. Attitudes toward the danger of greenhouse gas emissions are evolving, and the president now has to match his words with deeds without letting the powerful gas, oil or coal industries or their congressional allies kill the effort.

The predictions of climate scientists on rising seas and a warming planet no longer feel so theoretical. After years of long droughts, raging wildfires and high storm surges along with temperatures routinely on the warm side of normal, the evidence is mounting. The United States must prepare for this future by hardening infrastructure while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It's true that developing countries such as China and India are major contributors to emissions pollution, but that doesn't negate the United States' responsibility to lead.

The federal government must take another run at capping greenhouse gas emissions. When cap-and-trade, an effort to cap emission levels and allow the trading of emissions permits, was shelved in 2010, it put climate change on the back burner in Congress. Now Obama is planning to use his regulatory powers to bring change.

One area ripe for regulatory reform is coal-fired power plants, the nation's largest producers of greenhouse gases. The Environmental Protection Agency is already using its authority to reduce emissions in new plants. Now it should expand that to existing plants. New limits would decrease plant emissions by 25 percent or more by 2020 — environmental gains that would come from relatively small financial investments.

Another initiative will encourage energy conservation. Just as Obama sharply raised fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, the administration is expected to require better energy efficiency from major appliances and buildings.

Congressional Republicans should note that public support for their do-nothing approach to climate change is slipping. A recent CNN/ORC International survey found that 49 percent now say global warming is a proven fact and is due to emissions from cars, power plants and factories. That's double the percentage who say that global warming has not been proven. Another 24 percent say that it is a fact but is not due to manmade sources.

Florida's miles of coastline are especially susceptible to powerful hurricanes from a warming planet and extreme flooding from rising seas. There may be reasonable disagreements over precisely what steps to take. But doing nothing in the name of protecting the oil, gas and coal industries would, as Obama warns, betray our children.


Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
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Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18