Should Climate Change Come With a Warning Label?

An enormous iceberg (R) breaks off the Knox Coast in the Australian Antarctic Territory on January 11, 2008. Australia's CSIRO's atmospheric research unit has found the world is warming faster than predicted by the United Nations' top climate change body, with harmful emissions exceeding worst-case estimates. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
June 17, 2014, 9:39 a.m.

Air pol­lu­tion could soon come with a warn­ing la­bel.

At least if you live in Berke­ley, Cal­if. The city is weigh­ing a pro­pos­al that re­quires gas-sta­tion own­ers to at­tach air-pol­lu­tion warn­ing la­bels to gas pumps. The la­bels alert cus­tom­ers that gas­ol­ine con­sump­tion re­leases car­bon di­ox­ide, which in turn con­trib­utes to cli­mate change.

And they don’t mince words. “GLOB­AL WARM­ING ALERT!” a mock-up of the la­bels screams in all cap­it­al let­ters.

The pro­posed or­din­ance is the brainchild of the San Fran­cisco Bay Area chapter of grass­roots en­vir­on­ment­al or­gan­iz­a­tion 350.org. It might seem far fetched to some, but it’s gain­ing trac­tion in a city with a pen­chant for pro­gress­ive polit­ics.

“We already re­quire ci­gar­ette packs to in­clude warn­ing la­bels,” Mat­thew Lewis, the co-chair of the Chan­cel­lor’s Ad­vis­ory Com­mit­tee on Sus­tain­ab­il­ity at Berke­ley told the Daily Cali­for­ni­an earli­er this week. “Re­quir­ing la­bels at gas pumps would sim­il­arly keep the harm of burn­ing gas­ol­ine fresh in people’s minds.”

Berke­ley’s Com­munity En­vir­on­ment­al Ad­vis­ory Com­mis­sion ap­proved the plan Thursday. The pro­pos­al now awaits a City Coun­cil vote, which is ex­pec­ted to take place in the next few weeks.

Of course, not every­one is thrilled.

The West­ern States Pet­ro­leum As­so­ci­ation — a trade or­gan­iz­a­tion for pet­ro­leum pro­du­cers and re­finers — had harsh words for the pro­pos­al.

In a let­ter sent to the com­mis­sion last week, as­so­ci­ation pres­id­ent Cath­er­ine Re­he­is-Boyd said the plan would vi­ol­ate free speech by for­cing gas-sta­tion own­ers to af­fix the la­bels to their prop­erty. 

“This is the type of forced speech that the United States Su­preme Court has ruled is ab­so­lutely un­con­sti­tu­tion­al,” Re­he­is-Boyd wrote.

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