Perhaps the most important news story of the last week had nothing to do with the shenanigans in Washington, D.C., the birth of Harry and Meghan’s baby or the continuing fallout from last weekend’s controversial Kentucky Derby.

Instead, consider the facts contained within a report released early last week by the United Nations. The 1,500-page document details how biodiversity around the globe is ebbing.

So, you might think, what difference does it make if some insect in the Brazilian rain forest goes the way of the dodo? Actually, it makes a pretty big difference, since human beings rely on other plants and species to stay alive. That 1 million forms of plant and animal life could end up dying off in the decades ahead, if the report’s projections are accurate, should be a source of serious anxiety for everyone.

One of the culprits in this potential mass extinction is, of course, global warming. There’s virtually no chance the federal government will be taking any action to limit the damage of climate change while Donald Trump remains in the White House. In the face of inaction from Uncle Sam, states and localities have been doing their part. One of the initiatives Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states have undertaken is a cap-and-trade compact called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), in which they have all agreed to cut their carbon emissions in order to let us all breathe a little easier.

Pennsylvania is conspicuously absent from this group, which includes Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Gov. Tom Wolf expressed interest in joining RGGI late last month when he outlined ambitious climate action goals. Each state within the alliance places limits on their carbon emissions, and mandates that allowances be purchased when emissions exceed a certain limit.

According to Wolf, “I think that’s something we really need to take a serious look at.”

The need for Pennsylvania to take this step is plain. The commonwealth is responsible for about 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – not China or India, to be sure, but not insignificant, either – and is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the nation. Environmental advocates have warned that unless Pennsylvania limits its carbon output, it could become a dumping ground for pollution from other states, because the commonwealth will be called upon to jack up its power output and export it. That would, perhaps, be good for the bottom line, but not for our health.

In the meantime, Wolf announced that he is placing Pennsylvania within the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of 24 states determined to fulfill the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement that President Trump walked away from in 2017.

The Trump administration is wedded to the idea that environmental protection is the exclusive domain of tree-huggers, and it will not take warnings about climate change seriously. Until 2021 or 2025, it will be up to the states to pick up the slack.


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