Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s idea to jet its Administrator on a multi-city Earth Day-themed tour to “ask Americans to act on climate change through simple actions to reduce carbon pollution in their daily lives” is unclear on the concept. The greenhouse gases generated by Ms. McCarthy and her entourage will far exceed any concrete climate action from their travels, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
Last week, EPA issued a press release announcing that Administrator Gina McCarthy will undertake a week-long five-city tour to “participate in various events to...focus on responsible steps to cut carbon pollution to slow the effects of climate change….” Readers are encouraged to visit the agency’s Earth Day web-center to learn how to conserve and “commute without polluting” as steps to cut carbon emissions.
Air travel, however, is one of the most carbon-intensive activities. A cross-country plane trip can create a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. To put this into perspective, the average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, only 10. Though air travel emissions now account for only about 5% of total carbon pollution, that is projected to rise sharply as air traffic is growing much faster than gains in air-fleet fuel efficiency. To address this rising source of carbon pollution, the European Union is trying to bring aviation into its carbon emissions control plan. By contrast, reducing air travel emissions does not appear to be on EPA’s radar.
“Frenetically jetting around the country appears to undercut EPA’s message to ordinary Americans that they should conserve, consume less and reduce transportation pollution,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that as Administrator, McCarthy is a frequent air traveler and has been criticized for commuting weekly back to her home in Boston. “Hasn’t EPA heard of Skype?”
Some events on McCarthy’s itinerary have a somewhat tenuous tie-in to promoting climate action. For example this Tuesday, Administrator McCarthy and Energy Secretary Moniz will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Red Sox vs. Yankees baseball game at Boston’s Fenway Park.
“EPA touts this tour as meaningful but this agency’s effectiveness in public education is not measurable. While Ms. McCarthy is an engaging individual she is hardly a charismatic figure whose mere presence galvanizes public action,” Ruch added, suggested that top EPA officials could convey a more powerful message by practicing the conservation measures they are preaching. “If EPA really wants to combat climate change, it should finalize its long-stalled carbon controls on power plants.”