The U.S. Environmental Law is concerned with the legal standards that protect and improve the natural environment of the nation. The first statutory law of its kind was the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which was succeeded by the Clean Water Act. Moreover, the Environmental Law is composed of a collection of laws that work together, albeit overlapping in areas.
One of the environmental laws is the Clean Air Act which was enacted in 1970 to set goals and standards for the purity and quality of the air in the nation. Amendments to the law were made in 1990 to toughen the air quality standards with an emphasis on the market forces to mitigate air pollution. The Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards to protect the public health and welfare that was supposed to be achieved by 1975 (Sullivan, 2011).
The Act addresses emissions of hazardous air pollutants, whereby technology-based standards for major and certain area sources are issued. EPA is mandated by the Act to create emission standards with optimal degree of reduction in emissions of harmful air pollutants for major sources.
The economic benefits of the Act are 4-8 times greater than the costs of controlling air pollution emissions. Moreover, between 1970 and 2011 emissions have been reduced by 68 percent, against a GDP increase of more than 212 percent. Due to the Clean Air Act, catalytic converters have been invented, which have in turn increased employment with an estimate of 1.3 million jobs between 1977 and 1991. Further, the benefits include enhanced work productivity, reduced mortality and illness, improved agricultural yields, and enhanced public health, which outweigh the compliance costs. Between 1970 and 1970 had an estimate of $5.6-$49.4 trillion in economic benefits while the costs were $523 billion (Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 2011).
The Act has improved the environment by seeing the reduction of industrial toxic air pollution by 1.7 million tons a year. The outdoor air concentrations of benzene and carcinogen have decreased by 55 percent between 1994 and 2007. It has also reduced skin cancer and cataracts by protecting the ozone layer through responsible management of ozone-depleting substances (EPA, 2011).
Moreover, the Clean Air Act has mitigated acid rain, boosted the health of ecosystems and forests, thus reducing the mortality rates. Studies have shown that acid deposition has gone down by over 30 percent since 1990. Reduction in fine particle levels has also helped avert more than 50,000 premature mortality incidences per year (EPA, 2011).
Peach, (2005) asserts that global warming is a real threat for it is the cause of variable weather patterns, heat waves, flooding, droughts, intense storms, air pollution, and sea level rise. Therefore, the United States should adopt additional policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions and help health departments address the health effects of climate change.
To regulate the greenhouse gases emissions, for instance carbon dioxide, policies and regulations need to be crafted under the Clean Air Act. Further, the Congress can enact a legislation to address the climate change. Enactment of a new law would be better because greenhouse gases have different properties that do not fall under the Clean Air Act, have a global effect, and can emanate from any part of the globe. The regulation of greenhouse gases should be made through a system that complements other countries’ programs (Peach, 2005). This should be done via coordination of the new legislation with developing similar polices in Asia and Europe.
Moreover, the government should emphasize manufacture and importation of light duty vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save fuel, use of energy-saving electronics, and recycling of waste (Peach, 2005). Power, transportation, and industrial sources of greenhouse gases should be addressed and standards and limitations given.