Dean Suagee: Signs of global warming everywhere

"The signs are everywhere. Global warming is real. There are uncertainties, of course, and the projections made by scientists tend to be expressed in ranges. In the big picture, the range of uncertainty might be described as ranging from ''really bad'' to ''absolutely catastrophic.'' That's the bad news.

There is also some good news - we know what we have to do, and we might even have enough time to get it done. What we have to do is get serious about energy efficiency and the widespread use of solar and other renewable energy technologies. If we can do this, we can reap a range of benefits in addition to heading off the worst of the climate change crisis - benefits such as lots of new jobs and business opportunities, price stability for energy services, national and regional energy self-sufficiency, avoidance of adverse environmental impacts associated with fossil fuel technologies, and a generally enhanced quality of life.

Global warming is a multifaceted subject. Consumption of fossil fuels is pervasive in our way of life. Governmental policy tools for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can be implemented through environmental law and through energy law.

Each of these subject matters includes a patchwork of statutes and regulations at federal and state levels. In some subsets of these subjects, there is a long history of regulation by states and not much history of regulation by tribal governments. In the absence of action by the Bush administration, many state and local governments have stepped up to devise programs to deal with various parts of the problem, and the current Congress is considering legislation to establish a nationwide ''cap and trade'' program. Federal legislation that is labeled ''energy'' policy is also ''climate change'' policy - laws that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy are part of the solution; laws that continue to promote fossil fuel consumption (and waste) are part of the problem.

As we move forward with fashioning laws to deal with the causes of global warming, there are lots of points at which the question should be asked: How do tribal governments fit into the mix?"

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Dean Suagee: Seven points: Policy tools for tribes (Indian Country Today 3/21)

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