... what should Southern Co. do about it? 

CL asked knowledgeable Atlantans what Southern Co. should do about global warming. More answers -- and a chance for you to comment -- are available here.

William Buzbee

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Emory University law professor and director of the Emory Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program

First, from my following of the regulatory battles, the science of climate change is as sound as any regulatory issue in decades. So Southern Co.'s claims that there's a need for more science is puzzling and a little disappointing.

Second, Southern Co.'s call for voluntary action is a typical move for industries seeking to avoid regulation, but voluntary measures historically tend to be highly ineffective. The auto industry [and] the oil industry have made similar arguments in the past on other issues. In this setting, there will need to be broad-based action that's uniformly enforced if there's to be room for improvement.

I understand a company will be making business decisions for business reasons, but there are times when a risk is broad enough that you'd hope a company would take a longer-term perspective. I think Southern Co. is probably wrong here. I think that there will be regulation. And I think they'll be behind other companies like Duke [Energy] that have accepted the reality of the climate change problem.

Benita Dodd

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Vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think-tank

I think utilities have done a commendable job, actually. They've invested millions in cleaning up coal. ... Human carbon emissions are a drop in the ocean compared to natural emissions, and when we stop worrying about trees and volcanoes, then we can start worrying whether humans are adding too much carbon to the atmosphere. I think that climate change takes place all the time, and I think we're incredibly pompous if we think humans have that much influence on it.

The problem is we're not opening the door to a variety of energy choices, like nuclear [and] opening up [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge]. It's all very well to point your finger at one source of energy, but if you're closing doors as far as regulatory excess, what do you expect utilities to do? When you give utilities access to alternatives that are viable, then it becomes easier to set coal as a resource aside.

We need more legislators with the courage to take a stand against NIMBY-ism ["Not in my back yard"]. It's fear-mongering. Good lord, nuclear energy is the cleanest source of energy. There's a lot of fear about it because of activists who bring up things like Three Mile Island. Everyone acknowledges nuclear [power plants] are clean sources of energy, but no one wants them in their back yard because of this paranoia.

Patty Durand

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Director of the Georgia Sierra Club

It is the duty of government to look out for the common good of clean air and clean water, and to address the serious issue of global warming -- not Southern Co.

By taking money from corporations, our elected officials like the governor and the Legislature compromise their ability to protect the public interest. Citizens need to understand this process. We have a serious problem with the fact that elected officials' decisions are compromised by large corporate donations and an inattentive public.

The most recent example of this is through Georgia EPD's [Environmental Protection Division] recent proposal for a Clean Energy Fund. This Clean Energy Fund would have promoted renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs leading to improvements in air quality, encouraging pollution prevention activities, and stimulating local job creation and economic growth. This fund would have cost Georgia taxpayers nothing. However, Georgia Power didn't want it because true conservation would reduce demand ... and would not lead to maximized shareholder wealth. Georgia Power was successful at causing EPD to withdraw the Clean Energy Fund proposal.

Georgia continues to be last in the country on per-capita spending on energy efficiency. ... Citizens must demand strong EPD and state leadership to decisively address global warming and stop letting Southern Co. decide our fates.

Lowell "Rusty" Pritchard

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Adjunct professor of ecological economics at Emory University

I suppose for all of us, our fundamental moral obligation is to be honest, not to mislead others, not to pretend we know more about the facts of something than we do.

I know [Southern Co. has] something of a reputation for skepticism on global warming science, but there's not a lot of controversy about the warming or about whether people are causing it. A company shouldn't feel like it can misrepresent facts in a public debate, and we should hold people responsible when they don't tell the truth. Does that mean you have a legal standing to sue someone for misrepresenting the science of climate change? No. But should they be ashamed of themselves? Yes.

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