The debate on how best to approach reducing greenhouse gas emissions commonly boils down to two primary tactics: placing a tax on each ton of emissions generated, or employing a “cap & trade” system. For those who are not in the know, this second option may be a little trickier to understand, making it tough to have an informed opinion about which might be preferable.

Want a little insight into how the cap and trade proposal might work to solve the greenhouse gas emissions crisis in America? Here’s what you need to know.

Cap & Trade Imposes a Global Limit for Emitters of Greenhouse Gases

With cap and trade, there is a cap on the overall amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted by all greenhouse gas producers within a particular system. Producers are then given an allowance of greenhouse gases, representing a portion of that cap, that they may emit within a given time period. This is often referred to as a “credit” that corresponds to a particular amount of greenhouse gas.

The trade component of the system kicks in when a producer emits less greenhouse gas than it is permitted to, and therefore does not use all of its credits. When that happens, the producer can sell the unused credits, representing the right to emit a corresponding amount of greenhouse gas, to other producers.

Depending on their implementation, cap and trade systems can affect the economy broadly, or focus solely on particular sectors. In California, for example, the first phase of a cap and trade system included just electricity generators and large industrial operations generating in excess of 25,000 metric tons of CO2. The program was later broadened to include smaller contributors and different industries, magnifying the scope and effect of the effort.

Cap & trade systems impose emissions limits on the economy & businesses within it

Professionals With a Degree in Environmental Science Can Help Organizations Meet Cap & Trade Requirements

While the trade element of the system makes it possible for some companies to simply buy credits instead of investing as heavily in cleaning up their emissions, the overall cap is typically meant to reduce over time. This means investment in greener operations is increasingly incentivized, as extra credits soon become rare and quite expensive.

Though it can be difficult for some industries to achieve emissions reductions, a professional with a degree in environmental science can be a great help. Their transdisciplinary training in science and business can help them understand the best ways to approach emissions reductions in a given context, while still preserving the economic stability that a business needs to thrive. For businesses operating within cap and trade, these professionals are a smart investment that quickly pays off.

Environmental Science Graduates Should Know Cap & Trade Has Worked Before

Cap and trade has gained a great deal of public attention in recent years, but it isn’t a new concept. In fact, the US has implemented cap and trade initiatives to solve other climate-related issues before, and with great results.

In the 1980s, a variation on the cap and trade program was implemented by the Ronald Reagan administration to reduce the amount of lead that was present in gasoline. In 1990, the George H.W. Bush administration also implemented a cap and trade program, this time to reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide pollution, which is a primary cause of acid rain.

The level of lead in gasoline plummeted faster than expected, until it was completely phased out in 1996, and while acid rain does still exist, it’s a minor problem compared to the potential disaster it was decades ago. Some environmental activists point to these prominent examples as proof that the concept of cap & trade can work well for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, though many people in the general public are unaware of this strategy’s track record.

The removal of lead from fuel is a triumph of a cap & trade system

This gap in public perception presents an opportunity for those trained in environmental science graduate programs. Programs like the one offered by Unity College offer instruction by highly qualified professionals, with an emphasis on ensuring graduates leave with strong communication abilities and a deep understanding of climate science. This offers the ideal background for an individual to help communicate the validity and value of the cap and trade program as a part of a broad strategy to fight global warming.

Are you interested in becoming a highly qualified environmental professional?

Contact Unity College to learn more about our online environmental science degree programs!