Washington Post columnist calls on the EPA to regulate carbon emissions as a ‘toxic substance’

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The Washington Post published an op-ed Monday calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to “regulate carbon as a toxic substance” in order to combat climate change.

Post columnist Eugene Robinson, argued humans are losing the battle against climate change and specifically blamed the United States for exacerbating climate change. He called for the country to take steps to decarbonize regardless of what other countries like China do.

“Yet we have to find a way to snatch an acceptable victory from the closing jaws of defeat, because the consequences of runaway climate change are no longer theoretical,” Robinson wrote. “It is already too late to avoid long-term consequences from climate change. The carbon we have pumped into the atmosphere will be there for centuries.”

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A general view of the exterior of The Washington Post Company headquarters in Washington, March 30, 2012.

A general view of the exterior of The Washington Post Company headquarters in Washington, March 30, 2012.
(REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst / File Photo)

Robinson expressed concerns that climate change will have drastic impacts in the future.

“But we can – we must – stop making the problem worse and mitigate what damage we can. The punishing impacts we are seeing now are minor compared to the horrors that will face future generations for refusing to prevent it, “they wrote.

Robinson quoted James Hansen, who he described as “one of the world’s leading climate experts”, as saying that “we should have started taking action [on climate change] decades ago. “Hansen is petitioning the EPA to regulate carbon emissions as a toxic substance, which the Post columnist applauded.

“Hansen is among a group of scientists who are trying a novel approach to force our government to act more boldly. On Thursday, they filed an official petition with the Environmental Protection Agency seeking to require the EPA to regulate carbon under existing legislation, the Toxic Substances Control Act, “Robinson wrote.

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The US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) logo is displayed on a door at its headquarters.

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) logo is displayed on a door at its headquarters.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

“By law, the EPA has 90 days to respond with a determination as to whether carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases pose an” unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment “under the Toxic Substances Control Act, which was signed into law in 1976 and updated in 2016, “he continued.

Robinson noted that the law has been used to ban other chemicals considered toxic. While Robinson wants the EPA to classify carbon as toxic, he said this “would only be a first step.”

“The EPA would have to formulate and implement rules that could, for example, impose a fee on carbon emissions – and also require companies to remove carbon from the atmosphere they have already expelled,” he wrote.

Robinson called this a “clever strategy.”

DEARBORN, MI.  MAY 18, 2021 - President Joe Biden and Linda Zhang, Ford's chief engineer, F-150 Lightning, with the all-new, all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning.  Photo by Sam VarnHagen.

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(Ford)

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“The conservative majority on the Supreme Court might be skeptical, if not scornful, of the idea that such sweeping change could be mandated by executive branch rulemaking,” Robinson wrote.

While Robinson called for forceful action, he conceded that the US is not the primary emitter of carbon. However, he blamed the US for having “led the way into this mess” and said “we need to lead the way out.”

President Biden has frequently changed his messaging on rising gas prices, from celebrating them as part of a transition to a green economy, to deflecting blame and threatening oil companies to produce more oil. Critics have argued Biden’s energy policies have contributed to the rise in energy prices.

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