The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States defines climate change as “any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time.” The primary contributor to global climate change is carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere when coal, oil or natural gas is burned to produce energy. When they escape to the atmosphere, Chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs also contribute to climate change.
Carol Browner, EPA’s former administrator, during a lecture at Northeastern University’s School of Law, explained how setting regulations and enforcing laws made a difference in the production of CFCs. She said, “once you set an environmental standard, you create a market” to meet this standard. When the use of CFCs was banned, refrigerators and air conditioners didn’t stop being made; instead, as Browner said, “companies made investments and brought new technology to the market that was faster and cheaper than people had anticipated.”
Having a moral and ethical approach while setting these environmental standards and regulations that aren’t based on an economic analysis is the key to achieving efficient solutions. Climate change policy in the U.S. has transformed rapidly over the past twenty years and is being developed at both the state and federal levels.
In 2015, 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement, the most wide-ranging and ambitious deal on climate action yet. Most governments have made unprecedented commitments by signing the Paris Agreement. Will all the nations meet these targets? Probably not. But, as nations take steps to fulfill their pledges, major changes are expected. Browner concluded her address by arguing that nature itself can often help solve challenges in urban sustainability and help in controlling climate change.