According to the New York Times, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing that oil and gas facilities that inject carbon dioxide into the ground’s greenhouse gas sources report their annual emissions to the government. Of course, the industries are not happy about this—few sectors welcome government monitoring. The public, however, should be in support of the proposal. Greenhouse gases have a direct impact on the planet’s environment. If we do not understand how they are affected, we cannot begin to implement changes that can keep them under control.
Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. Without them, the earth would be too cold to support life as we know it. Some greenhouse gases occur naturally, some are produced by human activity and some, like industrial gases, are exclusively man-made. The levels of several key greenhouse gases have increased by about 40 percent since the country moved toward industrialization over a century ago.
Over the last two decades, we have seen a significant increase in man-made greenhouse gases. Most experts agree that increasing greenhouse gas emissions warm the planet and that, over time, the surface temperature of the earth will rise. Increased temperatures will, in turn, create dramatic changes in weather, such as more severe storms—this phenomenon is known as climate change. And though some may debate that climate change and global warming don’t exist, we see evidence of it in news reports of devastating storms that take lives and destroy entire cities, causing billions in damage.
Tracking carbon dioxide is just one part of the EPA’s proposed plan: the agency hopes to go on to track gases like methane which actually traps more than 20 times as much heat as carbon and speeds up climate change. Currently, the EPA requires 31 industries, representing 85 percent of the annual production of climate-altering gases that are released into the air, to track and report emissions. Collecting this data is important in finding ways to reduce emissions and in working toward developing systems to produce clean energy.
Industrialization was critical to America’s—and the world’s—economic growth. But it has also taken a toll on our environment. While the subject matter behind the EPA’s proposal may be complicated, the end result is pure and simple: we must understand what is being put into the environment so that we may save it. Despite the objections of the oil and gas industries, these sectors must be added to the list of industries required to report the gases they put into our atmosphere. Doing so is key to ensuring we keep the planet healthy enough to sustain the next generation of innovators.
(Judge Greg Mathis is vice president of RainbowPUSH and a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.)