Doing the Kyoto

A recent report by the Bush administration admitted that global climate change is a serious threat. That's quite a step for a nation that contributes about a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

But reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that US vehicles, industries, and farms emit may not be the federal government's responsibility alone. Private efforts, as an opinion piece in today's Monitor points out, are needed. And even without a US signature on the Kyoto global climate accord, local and state efforts to reduce CO2 emissions are gaining ground:

• Ten Midwestern universities are encouraging farmers to keep CO2 in the soil instead of releasing it into the air by plowing. The "no-till" movement among farmers means they plant seeds without churning up stalks of old crops. Experts say farmers who "sequester" carbon in this way could reduce total CO2 emissions by 20 percent per year.

And it could lead to a private market in "carbon credits" farmers could sell to CO2 polluters, who, in turn, could sell to them to corporations that are above legal limits. The problem with that at the moment: No limits have yet been imposed for CO2. And that's where federal policy is needed.

• Eight companies, such as DuPont, are working with the nonprofit Environmental Defense Group to monitor and cap their CO2 emissions. They'll be trading with one another to achieve their goal.

• This week, Entergy Corporation donated 600 acres along Louisiana's Red River to the federal government. Not only will that create a wildlife refuge, but the trees to be planted are expected to absorb, and store, some 275,000 tons of CO2. Reforestation, which must be part of the anti-CO2 mix, can benefit from such public/private partnerships.

• Massachusetts and New Hampshire already have CO2 caps on power plants. New York may jump on board soon. California's new emissions bill will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide from vehicles during the coming decade.

• A few cities, such as Houston, are looking to plant more greenery as a way to reduce the "urban heat island" effect that raises smog levels and air-conditioning use.

• Companies with big electrical, heating, and cooling needs are rushing to build integrated systems that maximize energy resources in more efficient ways.

This patchwork of solutions could use more federal leadership, as a recent letter sent to President Bush from 10 state attorneys general spelled out. But as awareness grows of the need to reduce harmful emissions and ways to do it, Washington can be brought onboard.

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