The role of the government by Jacqueline Langwith 178 p. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven 2011. 978-0-7377-4860-4
This book begins its discussion of the role of regulation with a look at precedents for environmental policies. Some fundamental understanding exists that air quality is an inherently transnational issue, and that climate is the ultimate public good, an object which the government cannot prevent consumption by those who won’t pay for it. And, despite knowledge of carbon dioxide-linked environmental impact dating back thirty years to U.S. Congressional testimony in the mid 1980s, the government has been slow to advance policies that could substantially arrest climate change.
This book does a good job tracing presidential interventions and state-level environmental protection action, with California as a leader, to the current system of environmental degradation vouchers advocated by the current administration. The current political hot-buttons are addressed, including CAFE mileage standards for automobile manufacturers and the agricultural requirements of a Western diet as contributing to climate change. The passages on fertilizer and cattle, which describes the potential for harvesting methane as an agricultural product for energy, may particularly appeal to some student readers.
Extensive space is allocated to a discussion of Cap and Trade schemes, which would commodify the permission to pollute, as well as more individual-scale practical responses, such as improved appliance standards and weatherization programs. At the level of agency response, forests can be deployed strategically to absorb and release carbon dioxide. Policy decisions can also counter deforestation in developing worlds and even local and state land use policies can be considered potential climate change tools.
As in the whole of the series, there is an a optimism. The text high-lights positive models, such as California’s proposed hydrogen highway infrastructure project as a potentially renewable transportation option. The text also contains descriptions of possible space-based solar power and anticipation of a hydrogen economy. There is a sense of hopefulness that humankind can transcend the carbon emissions from fossil fuels that have been a part of the atmosphere since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, with coastal communities becoming more resilient, water resources being protected, and farming practices modified to reduce fertilizers,.
There is a glossary, and extensive list of resources available in both print and electronic formats, and an index. Each chapter is annotated with endnotes reflecting source content. Recommended for school libraries, where the series will be an excellent support to both environmental studies and global issues curricula.