Our views on Senate Environment Committee’s “Principles for Global Warming Legislation”

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The six Principles for Global Warming Legislation released today in a press conference called by Senator Barbara Boxer provide a good starting point for designing legislation to deal with global climate disruption, but could be strengthened by adding two more commitments:  7)  Establish ongoing federal support mechanisms to help communities plan and prepare for climate disruption (irrespective of available revenues from the carbon market); and 8) Ensure, in coordination with other relevant Senate committees, that the US Climate Change Science Program is strengthened and redirected to focus on climate change impacts and vulnerabilities, and on mitigation and adaptation response strategies.

 

Senator Barbara Boxer, Chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, held a press conference this morning to announce the release of the principles the committee will use to guide a new and improved version of the cap-and-trade bill reported out of the committee in the last Congress.  All of the committee members in the majority party signed on to the following set of principles:

Principles for Global Warming Legislation

1.  Reduce emissions to levels guided by science to avoid dangerous global warming.

2.  Set short and long term emissions targets that are certain and enforceable, with periodic review of the climate science and adjustments to targets and policies as necessary to meet emissions reduction targets.

3.  Ensure that state and local entities continue pioneering efforts to address global warming.

4.  Establish a transparent and accountable market-based system that efficiently reduces carbon emissions.

5.  Use revenues from the carbon market to:

– Keep consumers whole as our nation transitions to clean energy;

– Invest in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency measures;

– Assist states, localities and tribes in addressing and adapting to global warming impacts;

– Assist workers, businesses and communities, including manufacturing states, in the transition to a clean energy economy;

– Support efforts to conserve wildlife and natural systems threatened by global warming; and

– Work with the international community, including faith leaders, to provide support to developing nations in responding and adapting to global warming. In addition to other benefits, these actions will help avoid the threats to international stability and national security posed by global warming.

6. Ensure a level global playing field, by providing incentives for emission reductions and effective deterrents so that countries contribute their fair share to the international effort to combat global warming.

We would add the following two principles:

7)  Establish ongoing federal support mechanisms to help communities plan and prepare for climate disruption (irrespective of available revenues from the carbon market).

Discussion:  Local and state governments are struggling with myriad climate-related challenges right now, challenges that require help and support from the federal government to be addressed and overcome.  Coastal areas face the likelihood of more intense hurricanes and storms; salt water intrusion and inundation from sea level rise; and loss of critical wetlands habitat.  The southwestern states are coping with severe water shortages that may signal a long period of chronic drought.  Pacific Northwest forests are blighted with pine beetle infestations.  Altered precipitation patterns and growing seasons are threatening food crops.  The urgency is growing; we cannot afford to hold back federal support unless and until a viable revenue stream from a market-based carbon trading program is up and running, which could take years.  Much support could be provided by redirecting existing funding sources and changing the way our federal agencies operate and manage existing programs.  New funding will also be needed. 

8) Ensure, through strong oversight of EPA and in coordination with other relevant Senate committees, that the US Global Change Research Program/Climate Change Science Program is renovated and reinvigorated to focus research and assessment on climate impacts on regions and sectors, and to analyze and evaluate mitigation options (including, for example, “clean coal,” carbon capture and sequestration, and geoengineering solutions).

Discussion: The US Global Change Research Program—cut back, compromised, and mismanaged under the Bush administration under the name “Climate Change Science Program”—is currently dysfunctional, in need of serious congressional oversight, and handicapped by an unworkable coordination mechanism.  It is too focused on “IPCC Working Group I” issues (i.e., the basic science of global warming and climate change), and much too weakly focused on “IPCC Working Group II and III” issues—i.e., assessing climate disruption impacts at the local and regional level (as was done in the 2000 US National Assessment) and evaluating mitigation technologies and strategies so we can identify the most effective means for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The committee should truly be “guided by science”—not just to determine emissions levels for avoiding dangerous climate impacts, but also to guide important climate change planning and preparedness decisions.

 

The EPW Majority Committee Members, all of whom endorsed the principles, include:

Barbara Boxer (CA)  (Chair)
Max Baucus (MT)
Thomas R. Carper (DE)
Frank R. Lautenberg (NJ)
Benjamin L. Cardin (MD)
Bernard Sanders (VT)
Amy Klobuchar (MN)
Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
Tom Udall (NM)
Jeff Merkley (OR)
Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) 

The EPW Minority Committee Members include:

James M. Inhofe (OK) (Ranking)
George V. Voinovich (OH)
David Vitter (LA)
John Barrasso (WY)
Arlen Specter (PA)
Mike Crapo (ID)
Christopher S. Bond (MO)
Lamar Alexander (TN)

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