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New England editorial roundup

Associated Press Updated: November 22, 2014 at 9:15 am

The Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer, Nov. 19, 2014

Together, the United States and China produce 40 percent of global emissions.

With much acclaim, the Obama administration announced last week that it had reached an agreement with China's leaders to reduce emissions. In the U.S. the agreement calls for a reduction to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. China agreed its emissions would reach a maximum no later than 2030 while it ramps up renewable energy production.

"Even if the U.S. and China do hold to the agreement, it's not enough by itself to stave off considerable climate change by the end of the century," wrote Charles Kenney for Bloomberg Business Week. "But it is a hopeful step."

The agreement bodes well for a Kyoto Protocol follow-up meeting in Paris late next year

"There's hope the agreement will involve a lot more countries making commitments than they did at Kyoto — including the U.S. plus China and the rest of the developing world," wrote Kenney. "The earlier that richer countries commit to a peak in their emissions, the greater the incentive for technology development that reduces the cost of renewable power."

According to Citi Research Group, emission reductions by China and the U.S. could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent. Nonetheless, if other countries don't get on board, noted Citi Research Group, emissions are expected to climb from 33 billion tons in 2013 to 41 billion tons in 2030.

However, critics such as Steve Moore, writing for Forbes, believe China will never follow through on the agreement. "President Obama and the Green Lobby actually think China is going to honor the new U.S.-Sino climate change agreement ... This plan represents unilateral economic disarmament by the United States as Beijing continues its quest to replace America as the globe's economic superpower."

Moore contends any plan to limit carbon emissions will put hundreds of thousands of blue collar workers out of business and coal regulations alone could render more than 150,000 coal miners, truck drivers and coal power plant workers unemployed.

Republican leaders, newly emboldened by their sweep in the midterm elections, held back nothing in their criticism of the agreement.

"Our economy can't take the president's ideological war on coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners," said Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader in waiting. McConnell, as you may know, hails from Kentucky, a state once renowned for its mountains but which will be soon known for its rolling and denuded plains filled with nothing but heaps of overburden and open pits of coal sludge.

As with many of the talking points from the right of the American political spectrum, the so-called "War on Coal" is nothing but fear-mongering characterized by hyperbole and hyperventilation. It fires up the Republican base and lines the pockets of those who profit from laying waste to the countryside while polluting our water and air.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, in 2011, the wind energy industry directly employed 75,000 people in a variety of capacities; the solar industry employed approximately 100,000 people on a part-time or full-time basis; the hydroelectric power industry employed approximately 250,000 people in 2009; and the geothermal industry employed 5,200 people in 2010. UCS also conducted a study in which it found a 25 percent renewable energy standard by 2025 would create more than three times as many jobs as producing an equivalent amount of electricity from fossil fuels. And need we even mention the billions and billions of dollars we spend on caring for those afflicted by pollution-related ailments?

We don't cry anymore for the people who were employed to sweep up horse manure from our roads or light our gas street lamps as the night approached. It's tragic that people lose their jobs when new and better technologies usurp less efficient and dirtier technologies, but in the long run, it's better for everyone concerned, especially the children.

The Record Journal of Meriden (Conn.), Nov. 17, 2014

Once again, truth turns out to be stranger than fiction: The National School Boards Association has ended its brief partnership with a large corporation that supposedly was going to help it convince kids not to take up smoking. And which large corporation might that be, you ask? Why, it was R.J. Reynolds, the nation's second-largest cigarette maker.

You can't make this stuff up.

Now, we want to be fair, so let's bend way over backward and assume, for the moment, that Reynolds was sincere in its desire to "accelerate the decline of youth tobacco use" through its "Right Decisions, Right Now" program. That is, let's not give in to cynicism, like U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who seems to think such programs are "shams designed to create another generation of smokers" to replace those who will be killed off by ... well, a good many of them by using Reynolds' products.

Far be it from us to question the good intentions of the folks at RJR, but they did promote the Joe Camel cartoon character in their commercials, for nine years, in what the Stanford School of Medicine called "a transparent effort to greatly increase their market share of young smokers." And the American Medical Association did charge that the Joe Camel campaign was targeting children. Reynolds, however, always denied that allegation, and also claimed that "Right Decisions, Right Now" was an effective anti-smoking program.

For its part, the National School Boards Association probably just wanted the issue to go away. "The debate about Reynolds involvement was a distraction from our larger efforts to promote student health and well-being," said Executive Director Tom Gentzel. (In its Resolutions for 2014, the association devotes exactly one sentence to smoking: "NSBA urges Congress to continue to expand support for school environments that are free of tobacco and tobacco-like products." That's Resolution 19, out of 20.)

But well done, NSBA, for ending a relationship that was a bad idea from the start.

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