Minnesota Star Tribune articles on climate change and global warming
Most agree action must be taken; '08 hopefuls weigh in
By David Whitney, McClatchy News Service
WASHINGTON - A key Senate committee found broad bipartisan support Tuesday for doing something about global warming, but deep divisions remained over how to curb the emissions that scientists think are causing the Earth to warm rapidly.
"A consensus is developing that we must take action at the federal level now," declared Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, who's presiding over her first hearing as the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
In the House of Representatives, Democrats charged Tuesday that they'd found repeated instances in which the Bush administration had ordered changes to scientific studies to soften references to the cause and effect of global warming.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said top administration officials had sought "to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming and minimizing the potential dangers."
Boxer said she'd try to steer the Senate committee toward enacting something like California's tough global-warming law, which requires lowering emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. But she acknowledged she was uncertain how far she'd get.
Some of the more prominent advocates of global-warming legislation are candidates for the White House. Among those speaking at Tuesday's hearing were Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The hearing was limited to senators describing where they stood on the issue.
The hearing was the first of many Boxer will hold before trying to craft a compromise bill. Several Republicans joined committee Democrats in calling for legislation.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., addressed the Boxer hearing, invoking two Minnesota adventurers, Will Steger and Ann Bancroft, who on their expeditions have seen "firsthand the effects of global warming."
In the House hearing, Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., accused the Bush administration of leading "an effort to suppress and distort the science of global warming."
How far and how fast Congress should go to reduce emissions from cars, power plants and industry remains an issue.
Many Democrats and industry leaders favor "cap-and-trade" legislation, which would set tough federal emissions standards and allow companies to sell emissions credits when they fall below that standard and to buy credits when they exceed it.
Others want to limit emissions reductions to power plants, which are responsible for about 40 percent of total U.S. emissions. That could invite a fight with states that rely heavily on coal-fired power plants or states that provide coal for them.
Another issue is whether a uniform national standard should preempt tougher state laws, an issue that could divide California lawmakers if the deal Boxer cuts falls short of the state's standards.
Klobuchar said she favors a limit on greenhouse-gas emissions, the "cap-and-trade" legislation and stronger standards for raising the amount of ethanol and biodiesel in fuel for vehicles, among other ideas.
Staff writer Brady Averill contributed to this report.
Legislators told to act fast to slow global warming
Science, morality and politics came together in a rare, bicameral session.
By Bill McAuliffe, Star Tribune
Minnesota could be a much hotter and probably drier place in the next 70 to 90 years, with an altered or dwindling forest, Kansas-like summers and Illinois-like winters.
But that's if Minnesotans don't seize opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now, three scientists and explorer Will Steger told a rare assembly of legislators Tuesday.
More than 90 senators and representatives from committees on the environment, energy and transportation -- nearly half the elected body -- gathered in the House chamber for an informational session on global warming that included state Catholic and Lutheran leaders casting the issue as a moral and ethical challenge.
House Speaker Rep. Margaret Kelliher described the event as "potentially historic."
Said Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: "The entire human family needs to participate in solutions. We need to act for the common good today."
While both bodies of the Legislature come together in the House on occasion -- for speeches by the governor, to hear visiting dignitaries and for an annual arts tribute -- the joint meeting involving eight committees on a public issue was unheard-of to many Capitol watchers.
"What it says is that leadership has recognized that this is an issue that cuts across caucuses and regions and affects everybody," said Gary DeCramer, from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute.
DeCramer, director of the Masters of Public Affairs program at the institute, served in the Legislature as a DFLer from 1983 through 1992. "They're stepping up in a way I would hope they would do more of."
Steger, dressed in a white shirt and tie, drew a standing ovation from the assembly after describing the shrinking of polar ice caps and permafrost in arctic lands, which he has witnessed.
'Smorgasbord' of strategies
David Tilman, director of the University of Minnesota's Cedar Creek Natural History Area and an internationally known ecology researcher, told the legislators that carbon dioxide -- regarded as the key cause of global warming -- is now concentrated in the Earth's atmosphere at higher levels than at any time in the past 400,000 years.
If increases continue as they have in the past 150 years, Tilman said, Minnesota's average daily temperatures could be 9 to 13 degrees higher by the year 2100 than they are now.
But Tilman then offered a brighter scenario: a "smorgasbord" of strategies that could result in no net increase of greenhouse gas emissions during that time.
That would include increased energy efficiencies in housing and transportation, more renewable energy sources, development of technologies to store carbon dioxide in soils, a renewed commitment to nuclear energy, and development of prairie-plant fuels that could result in a net decrease in carbon dioxide emissions.
'Consensus' and critics
Tilman made several references to a "consensus" of scientists who agree on the dynamics of global warming and its causes.
The session was criticized in a news release by Sen. Mike Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, for not including speakers who would question that consensus on global warming. Two protesters outside the chamber also expressed similar views.
But it demonstrated that such issues as renewable energy and limits on greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be prominent at the Capitol.
Last month Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced a "Next Generation Energy Initiative" that called for reductions in fossil fuel consumption and emissions and incentives to develop renewable forms of energy, including biofuels such as ethanol. President Bush, in his State of the Union address last week, also called for reductions in gasoline consumption and increased support for ethanol production.
In a letter to legislators Tuesday, Pawlenty urged them to adopt his program, saying, "We have a historic opportunity this session to make dramatic improvements in the way we produce and use energy in Minnesota."
Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount, said after Tuesday's hearing that blunting the causes of global warming could bring economic opportunities to Minnesota.
Rick Evans, director of regional government affairs for Xcel Energy, said climate change is "probably the preeminent environmental issue" before the public and policymakers today.
Like other major energy and other corporations around the world, Xcel has called for caps on greenhouse emissions that producers can respond to with new efficiencies or in a credit-trading market. But he said such measures would be most effective at the federal level.
He expects Xcel to get behind legislation in Minnesota that would encourage renewable energy, particularly wind, and conservation that would mute demand for more carbon-based energy.
Klobuchar calls for action on global warming
By Frederic J. Frommer, Associated Press
Last update: January 30, 2007 � 5:18 PM
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Tuesday called for strong action to stem global warming, telling Senate colleagues that the issue was a huge concern for constituents in her home state of Minnesota.
On a day when temperatures struggled to top 10 degrees in Minneapolis, Klobuchar said that some people might wonder why Minnesotans would care if the temperature warmed up a few degrees.
"Well, we are concerned - we're deeply concerned,'' Klobuchar, a freshman Democrat, said at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meeting. "We are concerned for ourselves and for the rest of the world. We are concerned for the impact of global warming and the effect it's already having. Global warming is on the rise, with enormous consequences for our world and our economy.''
The recent cold weather notwithstanding, Klobuchar said, "December in Minnesota felt more like October. Our ice fishing seasons are shorter and our skiers and snowmobilers haven't seen much snow.''
Klobuchar spoke at a meeting in which senators were invited to express their views on global warming in advance of a broader set of hearings on the issue.
She said she wanted to see several specific provisions in legislation aimed at curtailing global warming, including:
-Strong limits on economy-wide emissions of greenhouse gases;
-A cap and trade system, in which companies would be able to buy and sell emissions allowances;
-Strong renewable fuel content standards for cars and trucks;
-Incentives for hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles;
-Renewable energy standards for electricity generation, to make greater use of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
"In Minnesota, stewardship for the environment is a part of our heritage and it has been an especially important part of preserving our economy,'' Klobuchar said. "So global warming is an issue that strikes us close to home.''
President Bush, while acknowledging concerns about global warming, opposes mandatory caps of greenhouse gas emissions, saying that approach would be too expensive.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the committee, has the most aggressive bill, touted as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by mid-century.
"I generally support that bill as well as the McCain-Lieberman bill,'' Klobuchar told reporters on a conference call later in the day. The latter bill, by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., would cut emissions by two-thirds by 2050.
Klobuchar stressed that no one will get everything they want in the final bill.
"The most important thing is to be able to get something out of there so we can get something passed this year, and get started on reducing greenhouse gas emissions,'' she said. "We just can't keep going the way that we're going.''
Klobuchar said the issue has been gaining momentum. "In the last few months, you hear more and more people - Republicans, independents, Democrats - concerned about this,'' she said.
At the state Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., a slew of legislative committees held a joint hearing on global warming. DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher warned that ignoring climate change could devastate the state's natural resources and industries that rely on them.
Even as one GOP state senator, Mike Jungbauer of East Bethel, criticized the hearing for not including any global warming skeptics, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he wants the state to stay on top of the problem. He said a broader discussion about carbon emissions is needed.
Polar explorer Will Steger shared his observations of climate change in the Arctic.
He said, "I've seen the reality of global warming as predicted up north, and global warming is coming our way here.''
Associated Press writer Martiga Lohn contributed to this report from St. Paul