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Home Issue Index Issue: Climate Change

Climate Change

Issue Overview: Climate change, also known as global warming, refers to the gradual rise in temperatures on Earth and the impact this is having on the planet. Climate change is caused by an increase in greenhouse gases—which include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, water vapor, and ozone—that trap the sun's heat in the Earth's atmosphere, creating a warming, greenhouse effect around the planet. View Issue Overview and Video

Pro/Con Articles

SUPPORTERS ARGUE

Fossil fuels are essential to the U.S. economy and American way of life, and the U.S. government must do whatever it can to keep oil and gasoline prices low. It is unrealistic to think that the United States can rely on alternative energy in the near future. Projects such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline are crucial to providing the energy that the United States needs. The process of hydrofracking is also essential to increasing the United States' energy supply and should be encouraged.

OPPONENTS ARGUE

The United States' reliance on fossil fuels has damaged the environment, and it is crucial to find cleaner alternatives. Projects such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline will only further entrench the country's reliance on dirty energy, while the process of hydrofracking poses danger to local communities. Energy policy in the United States should instead focus on ending the country's reliance on traditional fuel sources. Rather than subsidizing oil companies' efforts to increase supplies, the U.S. government should support green technology that will create jobs and clean sources of energy.

SUPPORTERS ARGUE

As the world's most powerful economy and one of the planet's leading polluters, the United States has a responsibility to enact environmentally sustainable economic policies. Policies such as cap-and-trade would help protect the environment while allowing profitable energy production to continue.

OPPONENTS ARGUE

Placing restrictions on businesses' greenhouse gas emissions would reduce companies' profits and productivity. In turn, jobs might be lost and the nation's economy would likely suffer, making the United States less competitive in the global marketplace. The United States should not be held to higher environmental standards than developing countries.

NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL DEBATE TOPIC 2012–13: FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE SPENDING:

Resolved: The U.S. federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States.

SUPPORTERS ARGUE

It should be the job of the federal government to maintain and rebuild the nation's transportation system. The federal government is more patient and thinks more long-range about what is best for the country than private companies do. If the permitting and approval processes are accelerated, jobs can be created that much faster, thereby benefiting the middle class. Trade and economic output will also be augmented, enabling the United States to be more competitive worldwide. Low interest rates make the present an ideal time for the government to increase its infrastructure spending. The United States should also create an infrastructure bank to help fund large projects, such as improvements to railroads and highways.

OPPONENTS ARGUE

Infrastructure projects should be funded by state and local governments in areas where the roads, bridges, and other assets are located. Projects sponsored by the federal government, most notably the nation's rail system, are too often characterized by waste and inefficiency. If anything, federal infrastructure spending should decrease and give way to private investment, while the idea of a national infrastructure bank should be abandoned. What little government investment there is should be more specifically targeted. An infrastructure bank would likely have little positive impact on the U.S. economy in the near future.

SUPPORTERS ARGUE

Throughout U.S. history, the government has taken risks by supporting new technology industries, and that has helped make the country great. Many of those technological developments and industries are now essential parts of life in the United States. Private investors, by contrast, usually do not have the patience to wait for new technology firms to gain a foothold in their industries. If the United States does not develop green technology, it will be surpassed by countries such as China and Germany, which are already prominent players in the global green energy industry.

OPPONENTS ARGUE

The federal government is a poor judge of a company's viability. The application process, which enables the government to fund businesses that could likely find private investors, needs to be reformed. Green technology firms should be allowed to rise or fall on their own merits by competing with similar companies on the open market. Many government initiatives are models of ineffectiveness, so the government should not be trusted to make large investments in other projects, such as green jobs.

DEEPWATER OIL DRILLING:

Is deepwater oil drilling safe?

SUPPORTERS ARGUE

The deepwater oil drilling industry employs thousands of Americans; even a relatively brief moratorium could cause those jobs to disappear, as multinational drilling companies pack up and take their operations to more-drilling-friendly countries. Additionally, the United States remains heavily dependent on oil, and needs to produce as much as possible. Therefore, it does not make sense to deprive the country of the millions of barrels of oil that can be obtained only by drilling in deep waters.

OPPONENTS ARGUE

The explosion of a deepwater oil drilling rig run by BP, and the ensuing oil spill that devastated the Gulf of Mexico, offer clear proof that deepwater oil drilling is an inherently dangerous practice with potentially disastrous consequences. At the very least, the federal government should intervene and temporarily halt new deepwater drilling, if not end it completely, until the practice can be fully evaluated.

SUPPORTERS ARGUE

Cap-and-trade programs provide the most market-friendly solution to the problem of global warming. While far from perfect, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), recently passed by the House, which would enact a cap-and-trade program, is the most significant step the United States has taken toward trying to reverse the effects of global warming.

OPPONENTS ARGUE

Putting a cap on CO2 emissions will cause energy producers to raise their prices, which will eventually hurt American families and prompt people to spend less money. A cap-and-trade program would also be a less expedient way of curbing CO2 than a direct "carbon tax."

SUPPORTERS ARGUE

Ethanol is a technology that already exists, so it provides a proven way for the United States to reduce its dependency on oil, while creating jobs domestically. And other studies have shown that ethanol actually creates more energy than goes into its production.

OPPONENTS ARGUE

Ethanol has been shown to require more energy to produce than it actually produces, and its environmental benefits are minimal. Large-scale production of ethanol would require huge amounts of farmland, and the fact that it is being seriously considered as an alternative fuel is simply a testament to the power of the agricultural lobby.

SUPPORTERS ARGUE

Hybrid cars require less gasoline—and thus emit fewer greenhouse gases—than standard cars. If more people drove hybrids, the world would be cleaner and more habitable. Hybrid cars have also developed to the point where they are roughly the same price as standard, gasoline-powered cars.

OPPONENTS ARGUE

There are many hidden environmental hazards associated with hybrid cars, such as the coal-burning power plants that generate the electricity used by hybrids. Hybrids barely solve the problems associated with gasoline-only cars because they themselves use gasoline. The recent popularity of hybrids has impeded new developments in nonemissions-producing transportation technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells.

SUPPORTERS ARGUE

Throughout the world, farmers and livestock owners are contributing directly to desertification by growing crops and grazing animals in an unsustainable manner. Poor farming techniques and overgrazing cause soil degradation in the vicinity of deserts, making it easier for deserts to expand. People should address the problem by implementing environmentally friendly land-management policies and by replanting vegetation in ecologically sensitive areas surrounding deserts to curb desertification.

OPPONENTS ARGUE

The world's deserts were expanding and contracting long before humans began exerting any influence on the Earth's natural environment. Since desertification is a natural phenomenon, it should not be obstructed. Human stewardship of the Earth's natural cycles will likely create more problems than solutions.

SUPPORTERS ARGUE

Through new source review, the Clean Air Act keeps industry from damaging human health and the environment. Under the administration of President Bush (R), the Environmental Protection Agency has not done enough to enforce new source review.

OPPONENTS ARGUE

New source review is a costly regulation that discourages companies from improving efficiency and, as a result, harms the economy. Companies are even discouraged from making upgrades that could improve the environment, since doing so would subject them to costly new source review procedures.