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The Turning Point on Global Warming

Posted February 15, 2007 by

The Boston Globe

–February 13, 2007–There is now a broad consensus in this country, and indeed in the world, that global warming is happening, that it is a serious problem, and that humans are causing it. The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded there is a greater than 90 percent chance that greenhouse gases released by human activities like burning oil in cars and coal in power plants are causing most of the observed global warming. This report puts the final nail in denial’s coffin about the problem of global warming.

In addition, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has identified a warming climate, and the resulting melting of sea ice, as the reason polar bears may now be threatened as a species. The US Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Environmental Health has cited global warming as the largest looming public health challenge we face. And President Bush has himself called global warming a serious challenge that we need to confront.

Indeed, if we fail to start substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next couple of years, we risk bequeathing a diminished world to our grandchildren. Insect-borne diseases such as malaria will spike as tropical ecosystems expand; hotter air will exacerbate the pollution that sends children to the hospital with asthma attacks; food insecurity from shifting agricultural zones will spark border wars; and storms and coastal flooding from sea-level rise will cause mortality and dislocation.

To confront this challenge, we have reintroduced the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act. The bill, which has growing bipartisan support, would harness the power of the free market and the engine of American innovation to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions substantially enough and quickly enough to forestall catastrophic global warming.

Wall Street analysts and industry executives have predicted the eventual enactment of a bill such as this for some time. Late last month, a group of prominent industrial leaders, including two executives of coal-intensive electric power companies and a major oil company, urged Congress and the president to enact measures that align with the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act. Perhaps the inevitable is now imminent. We must seize the initiative.

How can Congress close the deal to prevent catastrophic global warming while it still has the chance? In the same way it has enacted every other major environmental law in the past 30 years.

Congress must listen to the companies that will be governed by the new climate law. After all, they are the ones who will develop and deploy the advanced energy technologies that will solve this problem. While intransigent firms should not be allowed to weaken the legislation, lawmakers must be open to a good-faith business perspective that can help solve this urgent global problem. As the bill reflects, lawmakers must also have the courage to promote safe climate-friendly nuclear energy.

Finally, Congress must move forward in a bipartisan fashion. Democrats will not enact a strong new climate law without the help and support of their Republican colleagues. Working in a bipartisan fashion, Congress will enact a law that curbs global warming even as it strengthens the economy.
The debate has ended over whether global warming is a problem caused by human activity.

Consequently, we can and must act now to solve the problem, or else we will bequeath a dangerous and diminished world to our children and grandchildren.

John McCain is a Republican senator of Arizona. Joe Lieberman is an independent senator of Connecticut.

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