Congress and Climate Change

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

THE HOUSE and Senate will return to Washington later this month with a host of problems and issues to address and, this being an election year, the certainty that they won't address most of them. But presidential politics should not be an excuse to impede action on the Lieberman-Warner America's Climate Security Act. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that the effects of global warming may be irreversible if action isn't taken within the next decade. The world -- and the United States in particular -- can no longer fiddle while the planet warms.

Under the bill sponsored by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.), a price would be placed on carbon through a declining cap in greenhouse gas emissions each year between 2012 and 2050. For the right to pollute, companies in the manufacturing, transportation and electric-power sectors would have to purchase and trade allowances. Such a price would discourage emissions and encourage efficiency and the development of new technologies.

The Lieberman-Warner measure, an amalgamation of several other climate-change bills worked on in the Senate last year, deserves a vigorous debate. The implications it would have for the economy and the American people demand it. Such a discussion, combined with the action and debate over the House-Senate energy bill signed by President Bush last month, would demonstrate a level of urgency and engagement in Congress that has not been matched at the White House.

The president's thinking on global warming has evolved over time, but he still balks at legally binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions, either through international agreements or the Lieberman-Warner bill. That shouldn't stop Congress from pushing ahead with legislation that would signal that the United States is ready to be an active part of the response to climate change.

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