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    ... Commentary: Global Warming: Suddenly The Climate In Washington Is Changing Even some Senate Republicans are calling for action, with Bush increasingly
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2005
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      Commentary: Global Warming: Suddenly The Climate In Washington Is
      Even some Senate Republicans are calling for action, with Bush
      increasingly isolated

      Because of the carbon dioxide-spewing creations of humans, the
      scientific consensus goes, the Earth is inexorably heating up. But
      nowhere is the climate on global warming changing faster than in
      Washington. The Senate -- which voted 95-0 in 1997 to condemn the
      Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases -- is now flirting with its own
      limits on emissions. In its coming deliberations over the energy
      bill, the Senate may consider up to three different amendments
      tackling the issue of global warming. "It is a pretty exciting
      moment," says Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global
      Climate Change. "We've come quite a distance to now have many people
      at the table trying to figure out what to do, rather than arguing
      whether to do something."

      The possibility of Senate action is another blow to President George
      W. Bush, who is becoming increasingly isolated on his own ice floe.
      On June 14, a nervous Administration fired a shot across the Senate's
      bow, warning in a statement that it "will oppose any climate change
      amendments that are inconsistent with the President's climate change
      strategy" -- in other words, anything with mandatory limits on
      greenhouse gases. Bush can count on the House GOP to block any
      significant climate change package for now. But the White House has
      already been embarrassed by recent revelations that a political
      appointee watered down global warming reports by government
      scientists. (The appointee, Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff at the
      Council on Environmental Quality, has resigned and is taking a job
      with Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM )) And Bush justifiably faces heat not
      only from scientists and foreign allies but also from business and
      members of his own party.

      The Importance of Hagel
      One important break in the conservative skepticism over global
      warming came earlier this year when Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) --
      co-author of the anti-Kyoto resolution -- acknowledged the threat and
      introduced bills to promote cleaner technology. Now, he is expected
      to offer those plans as an energy bill amendment, which could easily
      sail through the Senate. "The question is not whether to take action,
      but what kind of action," says Hagel. "We can't afford to do nothing."

      Another climate amendment will come from Senators John McCain (R-
      Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.). In 2003, they won an
      unexpected 43 votes for a bill imposing caps on emissions and setting
      up a program to trade emissions rights. To win more support, their
      new bill includes incentives for nuclear power, clean coal, and other

      The measure with mandatory limits that has the best chance to pass
      the Senate, however, is being drafted by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-
      N.M.). Based on recommendations from the bipartisan National
      Commission on Energy Policy, it would also cap emissions and allow
      trading. Enviros aren't enthused because the emissions targets are
      far less strict than in McCain-Lieberman and because of an
      interesting and controversial twist: Companies that are unable to
      meet emissions targets could buy additional permits from the
      government at a low cost -- perhaps $7 per ton of carbon dioxide.
      That's too cheap, critics say. But this so-called safety valve
      cleverly punctures conservative contentions that carbon constraints
      would cripple the economy, and the price -- and targets -- could be
      ratcheted up if necessary. Bingaman has been negotiating with
      Republicans like Energy Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.)
      to craft a bipartisan version. If he succeeds, it stands a good
      chance of winning enough votes on the floor.

      Why the change in Washington? For one thing, the science is now more
      certain. On June 7, the national science academies of 11 countries
      said that the world should "take prompt action to reduce the causes
      of climate change."

      In addition, most developed nations are already implementing curbs on
      greenhouse gases, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will
      spotlight climate change at July's Group of 8 summit meeting. At
      home, the U.S. Conference of Mayors approved a resolution on June 13
      calling on cities to meet the 7% emissions reductions called for in
      the Kyoto Protocol. The Evangelical Environmental Network, a
      Christian group that believes people need to be better stewards of
      the earth, is pushing Congress to act. Republican governors like
      California's Arnold Schwarzenegger plan to limit emissions. And many
      companies, which see carbon constraints as inevitable, are eager to
      figure out now what targets they will be required to reach in the
      future. "While the world is deploying leapfrogging technology in an
      effort to deal with climate change, the U.S. lags sorely behind,"
      Cinergy Corp. (CIN ) CEO James E. Rogers warned in congressional
      testimony on June 8. "The time is now to move positively toward
      reachable goals."

      Crossing a Line
      But the Bush Administration and allies such as Senate Environment
      Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) are still trying to stem
      the tide. That's why business has been reluctant to openly support
      mandatory caps. Companies fear angering the White House or key GOP
      leaders, says Frank E. Loy, former climate negotiator for the State
      Dept.: "They are concerned about crossing a line the Administration
      seems to have laid."

      Still, a Bingaman-Domenici version of mandatory constraints could
      squeak by the Senate. It would be unlikely to survive when the House
      and Senate meet to hammer out differences on the bill. But if Senate
      opposition to climate change measures can melt faster than anyone
      anticipated, more surprises on global warming may be in the offing.

      By John Carey




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