Photo credit: Manuel Bartual
New Jersey lawmakers launched one of nation's most aggressive attacks on global warming yesterday by approving a measure to cut the state's heat-trapping emissions to 15 to 25 percent below current levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050—a target equaled by only one other state so far: Minnesota. (A California law approved last year, by contrast, mandates only a cut in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Take that, you California hippies!)
The Assembly and state Senate overwhelmingly passed the measure 72-8 and 36-1, respectively. Governor John Corzine has said he will sign the bill.
"In the absence of leadership on the federal level, the burden of reducing greenhouse gases has now fallen upon the states," said Lilo Stainton, a spokeswoman for Corzine. "This legislation ... will make New Jersey a national leader in combating global warming."Lawmakers said New Jersey couldn't afford to dawdle, especially when projections have shown that warmer temperatures will mean more coastal flooding, heat waves, and air pollution. Recent studies say that North Jersey's weather could end up more like balmy South Carolina's by the end of the century if the trend remains unchecked.
Admittedly, even if the ambitious goal was met, it would make only a small dent in overall worldwide warming trends. Supporters say that the Garden State's move, along with those of other states, could be key in getting the federal government to follow their lead. (We're not holding our breath, but stranger things have happened.)
The bill was not without its detractors, of course. "The Earth has warmed up and cooled down hundreds of times. ... The debate is not over," Assemblyman Michael J. Doherty, R-Warren, said.
Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris, criticized the bill for not including "one single specific proposal" to decrease New Jersey's reliance on non-renewable energy sources. A better bill, he said, would encourage the use of radiant heating, hydropower, and wind farms. "If we had the political will, we could take steps today to lessen New Jersey's global imprint," he said.
New Jersey is already the second largest solar market in the United States (the first being California), and some predict that Thursday's bill could spur the state toward making less-polluting energy sources and high-efficiency hybrid vehicles ubiquitous.
Although cutting emissions will drive up costs for electricity and other products in the short run, Corzine and other lawmakers acknowledged, because much of the plan focuses on slashing energy use, they say consumers will reap savings in the long term as they use less power.
"New Jersey as a state will receive really incredible economic benefits, in addition to setting the lead for the rest of the nation," said Suzanne Leta Liou of Environment New Jersey, an advocacy group. :: The Record