Glacial retreat, species depletion, extreme seasonal weather. These are real indicators that global warming is happening now and clear reasons why we should be setting standards to immediately slow these effects. While industrialized nations around the world are making commitments to reduce greenhouse gas, the United States, which is responsible for 25 percent of the world's emissions, is lagging behind and lacks strict federal regulations.
Unwilling to wait for the federal government to act, some individual states including California, Minnesota, Washington and now New Jersey are taking the lead to curb greenhouse emissions. In an era where representatives in Congress favor big business interests over the environment, individual states are stepping up to set a precedent for change.
On June 21, the New Jersey legislature passed the Global Warming Response Act, mandating an ambitious reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to below the state's 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below current levels by 2050. The act exceeds California's Global Warming Solutions Act, approved last year, which only requires cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
These green efforts from individual states are nothing new. Maine Governor John E. Baldacci signed a bill on June 18 supporting the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a northeastern states cooperative to reduce global warming. Maine's government was also the first to buy 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, and has reduced its gas emissions by 8 percent since 2002, according the state website.
Oregon and Washington have laws requiring the largest utilities to use a set percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. Minnesota's Next Generation Energy Act, signed May 25, set emission reduction goals of 15 percent by 2012, 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050 based on 2005 emission levels. New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed a bill May 11 mandating 25 percent of the state's electricity must be derived from renewable energy sources.
At the local level, cities and even universities are making efforts to reduce their emissions. Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, is one of the top green power purchasers in the country, buying enough green tags to offset 100 percent of its electricity use through a student fee. Following the lead of the student initiative, the Bellingham local government now purchases 100 percent of its electricity for...