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Apr 18th, 2009

Lawmakers Start Work on Global Warming Bill

April 18, 2009

WASHINGTON — The last time Congress passed major environmental laws, acid rain was destroying lakes and forests, polluted rivers were on fire and smog was choking people in some cities.

The fallout from global warming, while subtle now, could eventually be even more dire. That prospect has Democrats pushing legislation that rivals in scope the nation’s landmark anti-pollution laws.

Lawmakers this coming week begin hearings on an energy and global warming bill that could revolutionize how the United States produces and uses energy. It also could reduce, for the first time, the pollution responsible for heating up the planet. …

Matter of urgency?

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday said rising sea levels, increased flooding and more intense heat waves and storms that come with climate change are a threat to public health and safety. The agency predicted that warming will worsen other pollution problems such as smog. …

If passed, [the American Clean Energy and Security Act] would be the first major environmental protection law in almost two decades. In addition to attempting to solve a complex environmental problem associated with global warming, the bill also seeks to wean the U.S. off foreign oil imports and to create a new clean-energy economy. …

From 1969 to 1980, Congress passed more than a dozen environmental bills tackling everything from air and water pollution and garbage, as well as protections for fisheries, marine mammals and endangered species. In 1990, the Clean Air Act was overhauled to address the problem of acid rain created by the sulfur dioxide released from coal-burning power plants. …

‘A lot of pent-up demand’

After President George W. Bush did little about global warming in his two terms, there is “a lot pent-up demand” for action on climate, said William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. …

Unlike the 1970s, when the first environmental laws passed nearly unanimously, Republicans are opposed. They question whether industry and taxpayers can afford to take on global warming during an economic recession.

Then there is the question whether the public will have the appetite to accept higher energy prices for a benefit that will not be seen for many years. Climate change ranks low on many voters’ priority lists.

‘A subtle issue’

Every year since 2001 has been among the 10 warmest years on record. Sea ice in the Arctic and glaciers worldwide are melting. But the problems are not as apparent as they were in the 1970s, or even the early 1990s, when Congress addressed acid rain and depletion of the ozone layer.

“If carbon dioxide were brown, we wouldn’t have the same problem,” said Gus Speth, who organized the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1970. “But it’s a subtle issue. …

The problems are chronic not acute, and it is largely invisible to people unless they’re reading the newspaper or checking the glaciers or going to the South Pole.” …


Related report on this site

Adapting to Climate Change (Dec. 3, 2009)


Related link

News on the Environment



Vital Signs of a Warming World
The science, impacts and scenarios of climate shifts

Slide shows

Warming signals
View images from around the world that show signs of global warming. (AP)
Ice at the edge
View images of Greenland, where coastal edges of its vast ice cap are melting at an alarming rate. (Reuters)


Carbon trade game
Learn how “cap and trade” works and play along in a simulated market.
Rising seas
What future sea levels could mean for some of America’s favorite places.
The greenhouse effect
How the Earth maintains a temperature conducive to life.
Cooling the planet
Check out five far-out ideas on how to engineer a cooler Earth.
Eyeing the ice
The National Science Foundation’s Tom Wagner on why climate experts study Antarctica.
Melting mountains
Data shows five areas of concern.

3 Responses to “Climate Change Legislation Afoot”
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